Are we missing the really big news stories?
Earlier this week, Francisco Toro wrote on the very interesting “Boring Development” blog, about a trend among Western media to ignore foreign news coverage. He referred to an article by Anjan Sundaram in the New York Times, which made the point that the crisis in the DRC was not getting the media attention it deserves.
We have made a similar point a few times: our media focus on “news” means that we are missing out on some of the really big stories of our time.
Many of the most important changes in our world are not sudden, nor dramatic, but are slow, incremental changes, never making the headlines, but gradually and inexorably changing the context in which we work and live. Changes that are far too subtle, or far too gradual, for our insatiable appetite for “news” to notice.
For the news culture we have built up favours the sudden and the dramatic. And its interest in a “story” drops dramatically, if it is far away.
Or in formula:
(please note that Distance can be measured in Emotional Kilometers, as some countries or regions may appear closer to us, through cultural or language ties).
And this news focus is not helping us. It is not “informing” us better, nor is it equipping us better to make better decisions. And it cements a picture of the world that can become hugely out of sync with reality.
Research by Dóchas found that more than half of the people in Ireland do not think that Africa is any better off than it was 20 years ago – despite massive evidence of huge economic growth on the continent. Similar research in the USA found that a whopping 67 percent of U.S. citizens thought that extreme poverty increased over the last three decades, when in fact the portion of the world’s population living in poverty dropped from 52 percent in 1983 to 21 just percent in 2013 over that period.
Similarly, many people in Europe continue to believe that world population growth is on some Malthusian crash course – largely because the really big story, that of consistently falling birth rates in most areas of the world, goes unreported.
Here are some other big stories, that few people will have seen in the mainstream media:
- Over the period 2000-2012, the number of child labourers fell by almost 78 million, a reduction of almost one-third.
- Just 20 years ago, many countries that are now well-established DONORS were on the aid RECIPIENT list, or making the transition to leaving it.
- Nine out of ten of the world’s primary school aged children are now in school – a historic first.
- Since the year 2000, the number of deaths worldwide as a result of #measles has fallen by 78%.
- Since 2005 the number of AIDS-related deaths in Africa fell by 33%.
- Africa “is brimming with a rising new generation of bold, creative-thinking innovators and entrepreneurs who are constantly inventing and developing new technologies.”
These, and many more stories that deserve to be told, are featured on our news service, “The World’s Best News”.
They just might help you balance out the obvious blind spot that many mainstream media have developed, when it comes to the wider world.
- Challenging the stereotypes of “Africa”
- Telling the good news stories of Development
- “What the media forgot to tell you”