When it comes to news, our society’s values have changed, and journalists are keeping up with this shift. On any given day you can log onto Yahoo! News and find more news stories about the Kardashians and Justin Bieber than on foreign affairs. We know why Kanye West is only capable of loving himself, but many people do not know what drones are or how many civilians are dying daily in Syria.
To bring this trend into perspective, I recently spent my afternoon catching up on all the episodes I recorded of the Daily Show hosted by Jon Stewart. Of all the great problems he pointed out that plague this nation, one had a profound effect on me. It was regarding the U.S. visit from France’s President François Hollande.
France is considered one of the United State’s top allies, and President Hollande’s visit would have been a great opportunity to inform the public about various foreign relations topics that were scheduled to be discussed between the two presidents with the hopes of strengthening their alliance. Instead, the American news media could not get enough of Hollande’s affair with an actress that resulted in his split from his long-time partner, Valérie Trierweiler.
We have the NSA spying on allies and causing trust issues; a civil war in Syria, and unstable Iranian relations. One would think covering these issues would be the media’s priority, yet the media was focused on very petty details that had simple solutions. A dinner was being hosted for the French president by the White House and traditionally First Lady Michelle Obama would sit next to the First Lady of President Hollande, if he still had one. Removing the empty chair would resolve the tragic problem they are facing, but then again it really is not a problem that should not be any of our concern.
News media, headquartered in countries outside of the United States, instead focused on the actual reasons why President Hollande travelled to the U.S. to visit President Obama. Al Jazeera, a news media source whose headquarters are in Qatar, did not waste their reporting space with the fluff of his personal affairs, but rather delved right into the facts and reported on concerns over climate change, Al-Qaeda threat in Africa, how to improve France’s economy, and the civil war in Syria.
American news media is shifting in a way that is putting more emphasis on subjects such as celebrity news and Washington scandals. There is not enough reporting on the truth of the atrocities the U.S. and other nations commit in the name of justice. This promotes placing more value on one life over another, simply because one person was not born within certain borders. A lot of news media makes generalizations about people, especially in the Middle East, and this has caused a lot of Cold War behaviors of dehumanizing the “other” in the media, and causing a lack of sympathy for them during bad times.
Every time an innocent American civilian dies outside of our borders, Americans rightfully make sure it becomes national news. We are bombarded with reports when attacks are successful in taking out terrorists, but when there is a mistake on our end that results in the loss of civilian lives, there is little to no coverage and accountability so we just assume lives taken are casualties of war.
By not doing the same for foreign civilians murdered by drones, we have become desensitized to these deaths. But the fact is, this is a result of overexposure from foreign media sources like the BBC and Reuters, both London-based networks; whereas, U.S.-based media like CNN send more mobile notifications regarding celebrity deaths than anything.
Before we are American, French, Pakistani, Arab, etc. we are human beings, and these artificially created borders should not let us forget it. It should be a responsibility of all news media, especially that of the United States, to educate and enlighten their audience of the truth in order to ensure that corruption and ignorance do not become an epidemic throughout our countries. The United States has a large influence in the world in terms of culture, and the kind of culture we should export is one that values justice, equality, human rights, and honesty. The base of these values should be rooted in our ethics of journalism and in the attitudes of media consumers.