Despite the “world news” page seen in most popular Western media news sources, it seems many of those fail to cover the entire world. Western countries actually show tremendous bias in choosing their featured news stories. Choices often come down to proximity to the news outlet’s own location, and also to whether a particular country is involved in a conflict. The general feeling seems to be that audiences may not otherwise relate — because who cares much about the rest of the world, right?
When people think of a country like Libya, for example, many will think of one heart-wrenching photo depicting famine that they once saw in an article (that was actually in South Sudan). On the 25th of January, I decided to do a little study analysis of my own. I looked at these four popular Western media outlets: the United States’ New York Times (NYT), Britain’s Guardian, Australia’s Herald Sun, and Canada’s Globe and Mail.
The “world news’ page on each of these papers featured stories that involved either the home country or another major Western country. A story about Donald Trump and Theresa May having a meeting was headlined in each news outlet, and the most viewed story on The Guardian’s page was about a restaurant in Venice being fined an enormous amount of money for scamming a group of tourists. These are the stories that Western audiences want to read. Not much interest in another malnutrition crisis in Somalia.
In this day and age, at least we’re still able to access other non-Western news sources, such as Qatar’s Al Jazeera, to get a wider perspective on the rest of the globe. So, on the 25th, I also looked into Al Jazeera’s main headline. And, as expected, it was not about a Venice restaurant.
Al Jazeera’s biggest story that day was actually a success story for Sudan, with a group of Sudanese slaves who had been used and tortured in Libya having been finally released after negotiations. This kind of heart-warming story about an African country would never get the time of day in a Western media outlet because it doesn’t attract Western audiences. Big businesses think of the bottom line — and if they believe their subscribers won’t read that story, it’s not going to be published.
In 2015, Chukwubuike Oguh wrote his MA thesis, ”Representation of Africa in Western Media: Still a 21st century problem,” describing how Western media ignores the political and economic success stories coming out of Africa. Many Westerners link the entire continent to nothing more than poverty, violence, famine and dictatorship. Oguh also believes that for many, Africa is not worth the West’s time, and that the myths of the entire continent being corrupt still exist.
Of course there is the counter argument that African countries are also not reporting well about their own continent, and that they often have to turn to Western news sources in order to hear news about neighboring countries.
All of this leads one to feel that many media houses are simply not doing their jobs. In general, the news industry should be operating with far less bias.
Martyna Zuchowska (Melbourne, Australia)