Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Kaley LaQuea at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the last month, bombings and attacks in Ankara, Ivory Coast, Brussels, Baghdad and Lahore have dominated headlines. Responses to media coverage and social media have been critical, with charges like ‘Where is Ankara’s Je suis moment?’ and ‘Does the flag filter for tragedies only come in European countries?’
Earlier today, Google News hits for these searches were as follows:
Lahore – 11.1 million
Ankara – 22 million
Ivory coast attack – 1.86 million
Brussels bombing – 36.7 million
Granted, 36 million hits is more substantial than the rest, but the allegation that the media just “didn’t cover it” clearly doesn’t hold up. Six follow-up stories on the attack in Grand Bassam, which happened more than two weeks ago, were also published today. It’s certainly true that there is less coverage, but it wasn’t absent altogether. Condemning media for failing to cover international crises adequately does not address the heart of the problem, especially when people conflate news outlets with content they see on social media and fail to click further.
In the realm of news, technology and social media provide instant access and knowledge to national and international headlines, but users are given autonomy to curate content and customize their feeds on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. This vantage point is increasingly problematic, as millennials increasingly rely almost exclusively on social media for news content. A survey conducted by the Media Insight Project found that 88 percent of millennials get news from Facebook regularly.
The power to cultivate individual online spaces with content that’s interesting to us is one unique and powerful feature about social media platforms, but we as users are inundated with millions of pieces of data every day. Consider the idea that some individuals only view their feeds for a few minutes once or twice a day. Those snapshots aren’t sufficient when considering the scope of world news, and that isn’t the fault of those producing media. In addition to this, the Media Insight Project found that only 40 percent of millennials pay for some sort of news subscription, whether it’s an app, digital newspaper, magazine or newsletter.
The progression of media into online spaces has also shifted the economy of news for many publications. Considering this reality for the prevalent news sources in the West, which are primarily based in D.C., New York and London, it is easier and cheaper for outlets to send reporters to Belgium than it is to send them to Pakistan. Western-centric readership of news coming out of Europe also dictates content, as Guardian writer Martin Belam explains:
“It’s undoubtedly true that there is less coverage, but it is also regretfully true that there seems to be less of an audience.” This isn’t justifiable or fair, and while the job of reporters and editorial boards is to accurately inform readers about important news in an interesting and timely manner, these realities must be considered.
As media scholar Ethan Zuckerman contests, “While we tend to think of our digital age as one of information abundance, international news, especially news from outside capital cities, increasingly face a situation of scarcity.”
Issues of access, finance and safety to report news like this must be addressed when examining the seeming imbalance of coverage.
Despite being part of the problem, new forms of media (blogs, trends on Facebook and Twitter) are ostensibly part of the solution as well. As developing countries begin to gain more access to the internet and mobile technology, civilian media becomes the first line of information for accurate news and sources. They will hopefully be able to hold news sources accountable as well as contribute to better reporting. This does not solve the multifaceted issue, but raises questions we must ask ourselves as consumers of media: how much do you know about what’s happening in the world around you? Why do you care to read about it? How do you show it?
Media is powerful and essential, but it is not without limitations.