Our ‘world news’ is anything but

Chris ‘Repman, Jr’ Cody has just arrived home after four months studying history, women and beer at Perth, Australia’s, Murdoch University. Having had the pleasure of his company for the past few nights, I’ve been barraged by his complaints about our nightly broadcast news programs. Chris is particularly enraged by ABC’s World News Tonight, which he thinks should be renamed "ABC’s U.S. News Tonight."

One of the many benefits of studying abroad is the global perspective it provides. While in Australia, Chris routinely watched the TV newscasts and said reports were truly global, and covered events in Malaysia, South Africa, East Timor, Europe, Iraq and elsewhere. It’s truly balanced from a global perspective, he says, and unlike our "world news," doesn’t include any local or national stories. I’ve started calling Chris a "global news snob." But, I have to admit I’m impressed and pleased with his expanded view on life. In fact, I couldn’t believe it when he searched out BBC News on the dial and said it alone would provide him with the objective and global news and information he now likes to receive.

I found my son’s views to be interesting to say the least. They reinforce what many of us already know and what most of the world says about the US: namely, that we’re way too inwardly focused and self-absorbed. It took a 21-year-old kid to open my eyes to just how myopic our "world news" really is. Sadly, until more people like Chris are able to experience what "global news" is really like, we’ll probably keep getting the same old stuff spoon fed by our so-called "world news" networks.

15 thoughts on “Our ‘world news’ is anything but

  1. Okay, here are two cents from an English guy who spent two years in the US.
    When most Americans only get two weeks vacation time a year and the nearest foreign country (aside from Mexico and Canada) is thousands of miles away it is no surprise that very few get to experience other cultures. Consequently, why should Americans care about places they have never visited, or even considered visiting?
    Another thing that people in most other countries fail to realise is that America is enormous. There is a lot of country to cover and just because it happens to all be one country doesn’t change the fact. If you look at the BBC news in the UK it usually only covers the big story of the day – usually from Iraq – and then goings on in Europe along with a sprinkling of stories from America, the occasional forest fire in Australia or democratic clamp down in Africa (note: ex-Empire related stories). Aside from Iraq, Cody Jnr’s examples all focus on places around Australia – again news is regional, just because America happens to be a single country that makes up a region doesn’t make it any different.
    Remember, when you watch the BBC news on BBC America it is the BBC World News you are watching not the regional version we get in the UK. Just like when you stay in a hotel in Europe you get CNN international, a wholly different version to the rolling news channel in the US.
    I think the problem with ABC’s World News Tonight is not the content but the fact it bills itself as world news when it is not. Kind of like the World Series, how can the winners say they are World Champions when the only teams that take part are American?
    Anyway, my advice would be to read a newspaper. Just like Jimmy said, if it is a good quality paper it should give you the local stories followed by national and then international stories. Failing that, there is always the BBC World Service or Voice of America on short wave radio.

  2. Great to see Cody Jnr. is instigating some lively debates and a very good point made too! Living in London, I don’t know much about what is covered on ABC’s U.S. World News Tonight but I am not surprised that US-related stories tend to dominate the agenda.
    One thing that will play a role in this is ratings….. and news broadcasters will continue to broadcast material that is popular with their viewers and this, I’m afraid, does reflect to what “most of the world says about the US”.
    This is a very generalist statement of course, but it might just be the younger generation who perhaps have more opportunity to travel and experience different cultures at an earlier stage in their lives that will initiate a change in view.
    PS. I’m glad to see that Cody Jnr. is “fully” expanding his horizons down under!

  3. I think RepMan Jr.’s comments were insightful. At our house, we sometimes time the amount of the nightly news that is reported on before the broadcast launches into features. The average is 12 minutes. It’s not that I don’t like these features; some are really good, but there is so much that we could benefit from knowing about both in our country and certainly outside it. I’d like to see more time actually devoted to reporting news.

  4. Apparently, I typed blobs instead of blogs on my URL. It reminds of when my wife came up behind me on the computer to ask if I were working on my blah, blah blog! Nice, huh? Hope all is well with you and your family.

  5. Repman Jr is starting out way ahead of the game. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to travel until I was much older, and once I started; it dramatically changed my perespective. Now I can’t get to enough places around the world fast enough. Hopefully, it will be just the start of a lifelong enjoyment of travel and the continuation of his ever broadening view of the world.

  6. rep-
    know i see what you are referring to, but i think you took that the wrong way. my point was that if americans want to blame their lack of worldly knowledge on ABC, then they are just blaming someone else for their problem.
    ABC is the only network that even bills its program as world news and as jimmy said each of us is now empowered to get any news we want at any time. would it make it better if ABC changed the program name to after sundown news?

  7. I-man: just check the first sentence of your second paragrpah and you’ll see what I mean. You termed today’s blog as “let’s blame someone else for our problems.” Where do you get that from? I was merely calling attention to the fact that our so-called “world news” is anything but. And, I believe we are too U.S. focused for our own good. It’s up to each and every one of us to become more “worldly” in our knowledge and our views. My blog was a call to action. Not a “blame someone else for our problems” tirade as you suggest.”

  8. Rep-
    Now I am beginning to think that you try and knock everything I say just for the “ratings.” What did I say today that even remotely resembled “mudslinging” or bringing the conversation down? Just b/c I disagree with your comments doesn’t mean I am wrong or am mudslinging. I actually agreed with Rep Jr about the name world news tonight.
    Either 1) you try and knock my comments for fun 2) you know I am right so since you can’t respond you knock me 3) you just don’t understand that there is more than one opinion on everything in this world.
    I tend to think the truth lies between 1 and 2..
    enjoy the beach james. like the death and taxes, james goes to the beach each weekend 🙂

  9. If it is of any comfort, American World News and an “insular” viewpoint isn’t just a U.S. phenomena…same can be said for Canada. We all have to make up for it by picking up an Economist mag now and then to remind ourselves just how big the world really is. Hockey news actually trumps important elections in some cases, believe it or not.
    Nice blog site rep man. This is a good distraction from my conference call.

  10. I’m happy that my comment (as well as the blog entry) sparked some lively debate.
    I was only commenting on what my European friends said. Sorry that I didn’t make myself clear in the first place. What I meant to say was this: those that didn’t blame us but on our media felt that it wasn’t our own ignorance that led to further ignorance – think vicious cycle. Rather, it was our media’s scope (and partly our country’s size) that didn’t expose us Americans to what else may be happening- think Darfur. Most of us didn’t know what was going on until we got celebrities (George Clooney, etc.) to speak out against the genocide. *When I say most of us, I’m not including those that are avid readers and news gatherers.*
    Now for my opinion: I agree with you Jimmy that proximity makes us care more. And maybe we should take more initiative in understanding what’s going on in the world. But when I was in London, my Euro friends proved to be so cosmopolitan – they knew what was going on in their own country, rest of Europe and even the U.S… sometimes even more than me! (my family back in Korea also know so much about American politics that it puts me to shame that I’m not as aware of the happenings in Korea.) The media coverage they saw/read helped spark their interest, driving them to learn more via other sources- e.g. Internet and libraries, etc.
    Basically, this is a round-a-bout way to say that media attention would help spark our interest to outside affairs. And since our country is a dominant player in world politics, Americans should think more globally than just locally. Even though information is a click away, I don’t know about you, I’m bombarded by TMI- too much information – that some guidance (aka media) would be grateful.
    No worries about my gender mix-up – the name “Moon” can swing both ways. Maybe I should start signing my name as Cutie Moonye, then there would be less confusion.

  11. my apologies for getting the moon’s sex wrong. seriously, ms moon.
    i never said that our broadcast news is better than what’s produced by the BBC. i just think that it should be more about our goings on then other’s. however, when a large story that is newsworthy for all breaks, it is reported by our networks – like isaac mentioned. also, i do feel the media isn’t to blame for someone’s lack of knowledge. and, i think that the u.s. networks should be u.s. centric with a touch of global news. i want to know and understand what is going on in my own country before i can begin to weave it into what’s at stake on the global stage. doesn’t that make sense? and the fact that the internet is only being used by half the population, well, i see the point there. but there are still avenues for those to find news – if they want to. libraries are still free and don’t call for a large investment nor a monthly fee.
    for better or for worse, i look at it like this: i live in philly. every morning i read the philly news. within these pages, i can find briefs on the largest news stories from around the world. but why i buy the paper is to read philly biz & real estate, sports, etc. i wouldn’t want to read page after page about how milk is heated and cultured to make cheese in germany, france or holland. you know?
    ps – did you catch the story a few weeks back where the BBC had a cabbie on as a guest? yea, these global producers weren’t smart enough to check out who a guest was before micing him and putting him on air. they thought he was really an investment professional. hilarious.
    pss – i don’t mean to come off as smug or rude. this is a discussion. we will discuss and disagree, but when there is a topic i want to spew my thoughts on, watch out! seriously, rep, i like this blog a lot. second only to my rants & raves of another popular site. that’s why i keep coming back.
    anyway, off to the beach.

  12. Boys, boys. I think it’s time to lighten up a bit and accept the fact that we, as a country aren’t nearly as “global” in our thinking or our views as you’s like to believe. Jimmy, I’m especialy surprised by your comments. So what if the Internet is at some people’s disposal (it’s still used by less than half the population, by the way). That doesn’t excuse what purports to be “world” news from focusing instead on matters strictly U.S. Medical supply exec: I’m not surprised by your comment. Whatever the post, you find a way to drag the discussion down and precipitate mudslinging. Guys: do yourselves a favor sometime: watch the BBC World News just once. Then compare it with anything NBC, ABC or CBS has to offer. There’s simply no comparison in terms of true “global” coverage. Oh, and by the way, if you could see Moon, you wouldn’t use the ‘Mr.’ Saluation in the future, Jimbo.

  13. Wow, Jimmy comin out swinging! However, I have to agree with Mr. Moock on this one. This sounds like a typical “let’s blame someone else for our problems” story. The “World News” on ABC does in fact show events from other countries. In the last few nights there was a lot of coverage on Iraq and Zarkawi (however you spell that dead terrorist’s name). To me that qualifies as world news. I do agree with Rep Jr. that maybe World News Tonight isn’t the best way to describe the content, but the other two networks have The Evening News and the Nightly News, so you can’t complain about those titles.
    As Jimmy said, we have the internet which allows anyone to get any news they like at any time. I spent a year studying abroad and there is certainly a difference in the way news is covered. But part of the issue is that with only 22 or so minutes to cover news topics on the major networks here, they usually have enough content that directly affects Americans that they don’t have time to cover Malysia.
    Rep, would you say that SNY (SportsNet New York) should change its name. After all, the basically cover the Mets and Jets and we all know there is a lot more to NY Sports than the Mets and Jets…

  14. “However, some understood that it really isn’t Americans’ fault that we don’t know what’s going on in Kashmir or what the capital city of Denmark is. Instead, it’s our media’s fault.”
    Hold your horses, Mr. Moon. While I agree that our “world news” does center on what’s going on in the US, don’t you think that the news in our own country might take precident over a diplomatic protest in Kashmir? Or perhaps people of this nation would prefer to see what is going on here, with a light touch on world events?
    I also STRONGLY disagree that the media is to blame for what Americans may or may not know on a global scale. If your industry is manufacturing, I’m sure you are up to date on the story of India’s business climate (via outsourcing/off-shoring). If your industry is finance, I’m sure you have a pretty good ideas about what is going on in the capital markets of the UK, Switzerland and of course, the US. Also, just about every American has an idea about the middle east and oil producing countries as well.
    We can blame the media for being narrow-minded, but not give out passes to individuals who aren’t smart on world events or geography. Right now, each of us is sitting in front of a computer. The “world news” is right at your fingertips. If someone is truly interested in finding out what is happening in Malaysia, it’s not too hard to find out. In Rep Jr.’s case, he used a remote control instead. I can applaud him for that, too, if I want.

  15. I completely agree with Repman Jr. I had a similar experience when I studied abroad my jr. year in London, realizing as well how tunnel-vision our news is here. In fact, I had to go out of my way to show Europeans that I wasn’t an “ignorant and narrow-minded American.” (They even quizzed me on geography and world politics. It’s a good thing that my policy internship in DC that summer before London kept me informed.) However, some understood that it really isn’t Americans’ fault that we don’t know what’s going on in Kashmir or what the capital city of Denmark is. Instead, it’s our media’s fault. U.S. media is so focused on either Hollywood or regional-national news..even though sometimes we don’t know what’s going on in other states, e.g. the fly-over states. Coming from one of those states (OK), I’ve had people from Duke come to me and ask me where OK is on the map and if we ever lived in teepees. (NO JOKE!) I was startled to see smart-minded people ask me such simple questions… Well, I digress. This really wasn’t meant to be a rant or an essay but only to say that I concur! 🙂