Localising news narrows the global community

Posted on 24/03/2011

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The historic obsession by media to always try to find local angles from international events has, from a journalistic point of view, always been  highly questionable, and – of course – been driven and justified from a sales point of view. But with a globally connected community, isn’t it time to reassess how news are made relevant to them? After all, isn’t the whole point of news to present unfolding events in a manner that allows consumers to make up their own minds what is important to them, without spelling it out?

Yesterday’s bomb blast in Jerusalem did not make it to page 1 in The Guardian’s online edition, until it had been confirmed that the only victim was, in fact, British citizen. How did this change in priority help the British citizens to make sound judgements in their daily lives? Did it give the British people a better understanding of the world around them?

A quick check on Google’s search engine gives a 20% higher page result when searching for “British victims’ as opposed to ‘Japanese’, despite a majority of the top ranked pages deemed relevant directly relates to the unfolding disasters in Japan.

When the phrase global community finally has been given a practical meaning and relevance, the world’s news media seem hopelessly stuck in their old dogmas and habits, however rightly justified they used to be or not. The inhabitants in our global community today not only deserves – but directly needs, reporting on events around us that connects them with other people, and not only heir neighbours. The six degrees of separation is more true than ever before in the history of mankind, possibly apart from when we were all stuck in the same tree.

Consumers today understand that dramatic events in one part of the world, whether a natural disaster or popular uprising or war, will directly affect them sooner or later.

The only local angle that is required is how,  if at all, their country and government can help, and how it is likely to affect them. But the change in old habits should not stop here, the localising of international events can be closely linked to the longstanding trend, and unworthy, habit of over representing negative views.  This habit is not older than a hundred year, and in a similar way contributes to citizens skewed perception of the world around them. It doesn’t help people make sound decisions in their daily lives, but rather narrows both their immediate local community, as well as the global one. Journalists calling for  a reverse in this trend are called naive but if the definition of good journalism from a dictionary is true: ‘…collecting and disseminating information about current events, people, trends, and issues’, then where do the needs to localise and negatively skew come from, if not to boost sales.

If we have learnt one thing from global news trends over the last 10 years it is that people are increasingly willing to pay for good journalism that puts things into a perspective, without localising or dramatise for the sake of sales.

With history magazines on a global rise, and Americans watching more specialised news programs than ever before, and a media outlet like NRP in the States performing best-in-class 2010, it clearly shows that citizens are craving for news that tell them like it is, not what sell it.

We shouldn’t be surprised if citizens soon occupy Fleet Street and TImes Square to demand that the ruling news elite – like the totalitarian regimes around the world – are overthrown with a new journalistic constitution.

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