I am not shilling for Fox News by the title of this post—in fact, I can barely bring myself to watch Fox News, but I want to pose the same question that their signature byline statement should urge us to consider. (I say "should" ironically because the last thing Fox News wants to be is “fair and balanced.”)
This past week’s news coverage in the U.S. has shown in stark contrast how little attention our national news sources pay to various countries in the world. For a long time, the “rule of thumb” for local news has been “if it bleeds, it leads.” And it seems the rule of thumb for national news is “if it happened in the U.S., it leads.”
Here’s a quick test—how many people died in a major train crash in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last week? OK. Now, how many people died when the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis?
My guess is you know the answer to the second question, and didn’t even know about the first question. Briefly, over 100 people died in DRC, and 5 people died in the bridge collapse, although this number may go a bit higher as bodies are recovered.
So what, you might ask? Well, each of these disasters occurred on the SAME DAY—August 2. Yet, national television news coverage in the U.S. has extensively covered the Minneapolis story, and I have yet to see any television mention of the Congo crash. The only press coverage I came upon in the U.S. was a 1 inch story in the NY Times. And, while looking for coverage of this story, I did come upon an online story on the Congo crash on USA Today.
And what does any of this has to do with your day to day life, you might ask next. Well, maybe nothing. There is no requirement that any of us be attuned to what is happening elsewhere in the world. However, I would suggest that if we want to be good citizens of the U.S., and even of the world, we need to have some sense of what happens. Absent information, how can we determine whether our national leaders are representing us well?
I am on a national advisory committee for the Presbyterian Church; this committee overseas collecting and distributing money in response to various disasters around the world. Our committee knows that charitable giving tracks almost exactly the amount of news coverage a given disaster receives. So, after Hurricane Katrina, millions of dollars were donated to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, but when the earthquake in Pakistan occurred the same year, few contributions came in. Of course—people won’t or can’t respond to things they don’t know about.
I will throw one more observation into this mix—for a long time, I have been concerned that U.S. news organizations do not pay enough attention to news stories coming out of Africa. (I remedy that by reading BBC News online.) It would be easy to ignore this large continent that many U.S. citizens will never see. But, there is one country in the world that is not ignoring Africa—China. China is pouring astonishing amounts of money into various African countries. Here’s just one such story.
I suppose along about now, I should be drawing some conclusions. No—I think I will let you draw your own conclusions.
Note about the photos used above--the Minneapolis bridge photo came from CNN. When I went looking for a photo of the Congo train crash, I couldn't find one--but I did find a DRC map. . .on the Al Jazeera website. Folks, the rest of the world is paying attention to Africa!