Why we know less than ever about the world (Alisa Miller, from Ted Talks)

Following up on my earlier post on the death of the foreign desk is this fascinating presentation by Alisa Miller, head of Public Radio International. She focuses on why the United States’ news media is showing even less about the world than ever – despite everyone professing to wanting to know more.

The most arresting fact? In US news coverage for February 2007, one story eclipsed news reports of all countries except Iraq: the death of Anna Nicole Smith. This was the same month that the IPCC released a report saying climate change is unequivocal and caused by human activity, Iran continued its nuclear enrichment program, North Korea decided to dismantle its nuclear facilities, and unrest was unabated in Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, Somalia, Thailand, throughout Africa and in many other counties.

A few other important points:

  • In the past few years, news networks have reduced the number of their foreign bureaus by 50%.
  • There are almost no network news bureaus in all of Africa, India or South America.

Pink News also has an interesting interview with Miller, where she discusses PRI’s challenges and recent successes.

Death, and Digital Rebirth, of the Foreign Desk

Map of the United statesHaving worked with a number of international and domestic organizations over the past several years, whose mandates may change considerably on the shifting sands of foreign relations, it has become abundantly clear that familiarity with global trends is a necessity in this increasingly interconnected world.

As we’ve seen with each political cycle here in the United States, ignorance of how the global system works – the ebb and flow of international trade, immigration, information and so on – can lead to naive perspectives on public policy. This allows politicians to more easily exploit popular misconceptions through dangerously populist rhetoric.

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