Columns / Discourse / April 10, 2013

Debating columnists: The threat of U.S. media

What was the first “news” story you saw today? Was it about the ongoing genocides in Africa, civilian deaths from CIA drone strikes or the drug war in Mexico? Probably not if you are reading from a U.S. news source.

“Peace in our time” has been a common goal for many generations. However idealistic or improbable this ideal is, one has to wonder why things seem to be getting worse, rather than better. Revolutions, internal conflicts, occupations and the United States political stagnation have all been big stories in 2013, but unless you are reading an international news source, you’ve probably only heard major insight into the U.S. Congress. While media outlets certainly are not starting wars or encouraging violence, they do not seem to be doing anything to rectify the situation. Violence on the international scene is often taking a back seat to more “sensational” stories that news agencies think people will care about.

One excellent example of the media’s true power here in the States is the 2010 Haiti earthquake relief efforts.

After the story broke, every major news agency scrambled to get to Haiti and stream back pictures and interviews of a country that had truly been destroyed by a natural disaster. Within 10 days, the Haiti relief concert was set up and ended up raising over $9 million to donate to the relief efforts in Haiti. The quickness of the response and ability to raise money from the American public was incredible, and to me it really showed how much the media’s attention can raise support for a global issue.

Now, compare that to the media’s response to Invisible Children’s push to talk about Joseph Kony in 2012. To their credit, some media outlets did in fact go into some of the background details for the organization and its reason for existing. However, most of the media focused on how many people “shared” the video on Facebook or “tweeted” about it on Twitter. There were no organizations flying reporters out to central Africa to show people who had been affected by Kony’s army. There could have been just as many moving photos and media moments, but because it was an on going conflict, no one bothered to go to the story.

Skip forward to the near present and recall the reports on Syria and the Arab Spring when the events first happened. The media was on top of it and sent many reporters to Syria to report on the ground. But unfortunately, much like the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the longer the conflict went on, the less the American public heard about it. This bias to one-time, unbelievable events means that many people in the U.S. go on without adequate knowledge of the violence that is occurring nonstop in our world. If news agencies were to have a ticker that was published everyday with the amount of civilians the U.S. has killed, there would be outrage.

If news agencies were to continue to report on Syria with regard to the international involvement (or manipulation) instead of the “big” events of rebel progress, this would be met with outrage. If news agencies were to talk about the catastrophes of the drug war and the amount of deaths caused everyday on the border because of our policies, they would again be met with outrage. But turn on the news and odds are you will hear a political scandal, something about North Korea’s ridiculous threats or a brief update of U.S. conflicts that completely ignores international issues or U.S. mistakes.

I say it is about time organizations like CNN stop focusing on their holograms and start reporting what actually is going on in the world. The fact that one has to go to the blog section of The New York Times website to get a rundown of actual violence world wide and the policy behind it is outrageous. World peace is a long way away, but that is no reason to stop pushing for it. Knowledge is power, and currently, U.S. media consumers’ knowledge is completely misplaced.

Payton Rose
Senior Payton Rose is a political science major with minors in creative writing and Spanish. This is his first year working for The Knox Student as discourse editor. He has written a political column for TKS for two years.

Tags:  al-Qaida Debt economy global impact investment market neglect Reagan South America struggle U.S.

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