Every morning, when I pick up one of the locally available papers, be it The New York Times, The Miami Herald or the Sun-Sentinel – I hunt for international headlines. And, most of the time, what I see is more news about the Middle East, Afghanistan, or Fidel’s kingdom to the south.
I’m sorry to say, but that’s the way things are, and most probably, the way they should be. Simply because those are the places of political and economic interest to the United States. Yes, we do live each day in a more globalized world, one in which each region and sometimes even each country has its own place in the global scheme. Yes, national legislation-here and abroad-has rippling effects beyond national borders. But we still can’t expect Finland, Nepal and Trinidad and Tobago to be as important to the United States as are the Middle East, China, and Colombia. These places are, quite simply, of higher political and economic interest to the United States, not to mention cultural.
One could blame the media. Not that the media is powerless in this country (much on the contrary), but it’s unrealistic, I believe, to hold the media above influence, above anyone or anything. U.S. foreign policy has much to do with what countries are covered and how they are covered.
And let’s not forget that the news media depends on public bias to survive. The readers are who dictate much of the content that is published. Most people don’t care what happens beyond their state borders, much less about what happens outside their national border. Unless, of course, they have family, cultural or economic ties to other countries. It’s part of human nature to be selective. As long as they depend on profits, the media will do whatever they can to sell more. Even if it means neglecting some of their readers.
While the atrocities in Chechnya, the plight of the poor in Morocco, and the AIDS epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa may generate as many interesting stories as do Afghanistan, Colombia, and Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these countries don’t seem to be nearly as important to the United States.
This is the reality. But that doesn’t mean the lives of those in other countries are more precious than others. But, to some degree, it does make one life more important than another. And it becomes imperative to understand the difference between those two: Interest in one region doesn’t mean exclude not caring about another. The degrees of interest are what vary.
In the end, we’re just naturally wired to be selective, and the media simply reflect that bias in their coverage. It is up to the readers, then, to define (or re-define) their interests, so that the media can do the same with theirs.
Daniel Paskin is a doctoral student in the School of International Studies.