Unfortunately in today’s day and age, poverty and the mistreatment of individuals are issues that are alive and prevalent to societies all over the world. When looking at how the media reports on international news, one will find that they keep shrinking the stories covering issues such as Child Soldiers, Mistreatment of Females, and Disaster Control in foreign countries. When looking at Child Soldiers in Sri Lanka after the Tsunami, the number of soldiers has increased and due to the Tamil Tigers, these children are suffering even more. Along with the child soldiers, the tsunami that happened in December of 2004 has affected the whole economy of this country. However, the media has done practically nothing to report on these rising issues affecting this area of the world.
When researching how the citizens of America viewed international news, the rates were rather disturbing. The majority of the public in the United States hasn’t shown constant interest in what is happening in other parts of the world throughout the entire history of America. Unfortunately, American citizens have only been interested in what happens in the United States and nowhere else. The people of the United States have generally only had an interest for foreign affairs when they are threatened by war (Utley, 5).
On the other side of the issue, journalists are quickly discovering the problem of the coverage of foreign affairs. The journalists feel that they can sell a story to their editor because the editor ultimately sells to the public. Take for example, the country of Afghanistan and how in the 1980s there were tons of television crews covering situations as long as they were about Soviet expansionism (Utley, 5). By the year 1989 the news coverage quickly plummeted, however the Afghans were still fighting each other. It wasn’t until after 9-11-2001 that Americans started seeing mass amounts of coverage in Afghanistan, however the coverage was full of violence and coverage of women being forced to stay at home, which was what the American people wanted to see.
When looking at different news sources in particular the New York Times, there is a very low amount of articles pertaining to international issues that are important to the general well being of citizens around the world. When searching for articles about child soldiers in Sri Lanka, there were 4 total articles about this rising issue affecting this area of South East Asia. This information was looked at from the year 2000-2005, and the further one went back, the information about this issue decreased. The articles focus on what happens to these children when they are recruited and are forced to go to war, however, they do not talk about all of the problems that this important issue causes for the whole country.
There is an overall tension between the journalistic points of view and the commercial priorities that need to be followed in today’s society. This issue has affected all areas of the news, specifically international news coverage. Due to the commercial pressures, the independence of reporters along with their employers have been under scrutiny for the news coverage. The foreign correspondents often times experience censorship, political control, and distant priorities of stories being covered because of the rise of commercialism that the news owners put them under. (Utley, 9).
Some of the problems of the lack of coverage of international issues such as child soldiers and the economy of other countries deal with the percentage of Americans that pay attention to international news. Only 21 percent of the citizens in the United States take the time to follow international news (Stacks, 12). The only people that seem interested in the news around the world are older citizens, but in all honesty the younger generations are the people who should try to get better awareness for these issues because they will be the people around to keep the country afloat.
After analyzing another news source for information about the current state of Child Soldiers in Sri Lanka as well as the economy after the December 2004 tsunami, the results were a little more hopeful in terms of better news coverage. Since Inter Press New Agency is looked at as the United Nations’ direct news service, they did a much better job of covering these pertinent issues that are happening in Sri Lanka. Due to the connection of the UN, InterPress understands the importance of these issues as well as numerous other issues. Their website allows for searching of issues that are happening throughout the world along with the headlines for each region of the world. Part of the better coverage that InterPress provides comes down to the type of service that they encompass. Instead of having to deal with elite newspaper editors and just American viewers, InterPress has an obligation to serve citizens all over the world. Unfortunately in today’s society, the numbers of these news services are few and far between.
All in all, the overall sense of obligation to provide the public with positive news coverage of everything in the world has disappeared. Due to large media companies the audiences are shrinking and the money that these news sources receive is also shrinking, which means that the news sources are more concerned with surviving than providing the services they promise (Stacks, 19). The citizens of the United States lack an understanding of the world, and their opinions are easily manipulated (Stacks, 21).
The state of the economy and the people in Sri Lanka are deteriorating, and unfortunately because of the poor news coverage that is offered in America, the average person has no concept of the severity of this issue. The people of Sri Lanka suffer everyday because of the Tamil Tiger Regime and the conditions that the tsunami caused, and because the strongest country in the world lacks the knowledge of international issues, we are unable to help these people in dire need of assistance.
Because Third World countries like Sri Lanka lack the funds and connections to get news of these issues over to the United States, often times journalists from America do not get the full perspective of situations in countries like Sri Lanka. It is no surprise to anyone that the United States needs to increase and improve their coverage of Third World countries, but often times news organizations are not willing to train the American journalists to better report in Third World countries (Trustees of Columbia University, 92).
Hopefully in the near future the people of Sri Lanka will begin to see relief and help for the number of issues that affect their country. The United States needs to do a better job of reporting pressing issues that affect different parts of the world, and the only way to make sure that the coverage is presented is to demand that news organizations report on International affairs on a daily basis. If America is the strongest nation, then the least we can do as a country is help those less fortunate and those in need of our services and power.
Stacks, John, F. World Policy Journal: Winter 2003/04. Hard Times For Hard News: A Clinical Look At U.S. Foreign Coverage.
Trustees of Columbia University, 2001. Journal of International Affairs: 2001. International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems, Many Voices, One World: Communication and Society Today and Tomorrow. 2001.
Utley, Garrick. Foreign Affairs: March/April 1997. The Shrinking of Foreign News: From Broadcast to Narrowcast.