“Because after all, the way everything is remembered is by the writers and painters of the period, nobody really lives who has not been well written about”
– Gertrude Stein
Our View of the World is Distorted by Our News
Alisa Miller’s TED Talk brilliantly illustrates what news industry observers have been warning for years: Our news diet is distorted. Americans get very little news about places outside the United States, and that amount dwindles further when we remove US-occupied countries like Iraq from the equation. If you look at our supply of news from places outside the United States that the United States is not directly involved in, the effect is even more pronounced. The Media Standards Trust quantified a similar trend in the United Kingdom in their Shrinking World report, where they found that the British press had placed less priority on international news by every measure, from total words written to front page surface areas.
The professional media coverage news consumers receive drives awareness of and ideas about other places, but this coverage is distorted by a variety of factors. H. Denis Wu analyzed international news coverage in 38 countries and identified the factors which determine how much news each country receives about the rest of the sample. These systemic factors included “traits of nations [like population and extent of freedom of the press], magnitude of interaction, relatedness between nations, and logistics of news gathering” in those countries. The United States is the most-covered nation in Wu’s analysis. The international news Americans see depends most closely on trade volume and whether or not a news companies invested in a news agency in the countries in question.