This is a post inspired by my international news media class at Cal State Northridge in 2016, which explored the issues with international news coverage in American mainstream media. I always had the feeling particular things were lacking in mainstream media and wondered how news outlets select their coverage. Now I know and I will share this precious wisdom.
1. The “Big Six” Set the Bar
The American entertainment and news industry is dominated by the six media conglomerates General Electric (umbrella of NBS and Comcast), CBS Corporation, The Walt Disney Company, News Corp, Time Warner and Viacom. Most news are distributed by these leading billion dollar businesses, which also set the bar for all other publishers in the news outlet hierarchy. Smaller outlets need to keep up with the “big news” in order to stay relevant. “Wasting” coverage on issues that aren’t in the immediate spotlight of society is a major deal for smaller news outlets that need to stay competitive.
2. White. Wealthy. Males.
Older and wealthy white males run the world. Obviously. They run all the big companies and attain leadership positions in industries all over the nation. Therefore, most industries revolve around pleasing the interests of wealthy white males, who are mainly concerned about politics, conflicts and economy – the top three topics in mainstream news media.
3. The 5 Constants
People are naturally more interested in things that are similar to themselves. With this background, the United States is interested in countries, whose economy is equally significant, have cultural similarities, such as language or are in close proximity. Sometimes, we hear about Canada, but technically, nothing else is really close to the U.S., which is separated from the rest of the world by a bunch of ocean. However, the U.S. maintains strong ties to Russia, Israel, China, Japan and the UK – the 5 constants. Russia, China and Japan have huge and relevant economies; Israel and Japan have been maintaining an important relationship with the U.S and are relevant through historical ties; Britain colonized the U.S. and is culturally most similar. Other countries simply don’t have a worthy enough economy, or are culturally or physically too far away.
4. Location vs. Crisis
A well-known journalism saying states, “one dead fireman in Brooklyn is worth five English bobbies, who are worth 50 Arabs, who are worth 500 Africans.” Therefore, the further away the crisis, the more violent or deadly it has to be. Multiple terror attacks happened in March 2016, but we only heard about the bombing in Brussels, Belgium on March 22, where 35 people were killed by ISIS. Mainstream media did not cover the attacks in Iraq (March 3, 61 killed), Turkey (March 13, 28 killed), Nigeria (March 16, 22 killed), Yemen (March 25, 26 killed) or Pakistan (March 27, 72 killed). The reason: Considering the distance of the countries, not enough people died to be worth the coverage – a major crisis with more than 100 deaths might have been covered.