Friday, March 24, 2017

GlobalMedia: International Journalism: Being a Journalist in a Foreign Place (W12-P3) Sp17



Imagine being a journalist in a far off land.

Wouldn't be easy, would it?

First, you may, depending on where you are and what you are covering, be physically harmed or killed.  See Anderson Cooper clip below, for just one example.  




And, if you are curious, check out some recent news about about foreign journalists being hurt or killed in the past year month.


It is also not easy being a foreign journalist because you may misread/misunderstand what you are covering in that foreign land.  It is a challenge.




P. Eric Louw, in his chapter "Journalist Reporting from Foreign Places" in Global Journalism: Topical Issues and Media Systems (4th Edition), writes about the challenges of being a foreign journalist.






Thesis of chapter:
  • “Journalist coverage of foreign places increasingly influences the governance of those places.” (e.g., CNN effect.)
  • “The emergence of international governance based on foreign news-driven mediated realities has inherent dangers."

“Double Misreadings”?
  • “Relying on the news media to understand distant places inherently produces a double misreading because…”
    • Journalist can misread the news event and
    • We (the audience) can misread what the journalist is saying.
  • “journalists generally are not equipped to read distant contexts, and neither are their audiences."


Journalist misread for several reasons.
  1. “First, journalists arriving in a new context are foreigners [who don’t know the history, the religions, etc.]
  2. “Misreadings also occur because journalists carry their cultural biases with them when reporting in a foreign context.”
    1. e.g. American values/ways of doing things being seen as normal. Seeing foreign ways as “incomprehensible” or “despicable”.
  3. “…the journalistic practice of deploying simplistic labels.” 
    1. Taking a complex, sometimes chaotic situation/place and putting into 20 words or less and putting it in a way that U.S. audience will relate to.  “ethnic cleansing” label “white supremacy” label used in coverage of S.A.
  4. “…journalists routinely use binary oppositions when describing foreign contexts”   Related to #3  
    1. Common characters in a news story: “good guys” vs. “bad guys” Other characters?  Common plot?  Again, oversimplification.
  5. “…when sent to report on foreign contexts, journalists tend to (subconsciously) select contacts with whom they feel comfortable working…”
  6. “…foreign issues are read in terms of ‘home’ understandings and agendas.” 
    1. e.g., S.A. anti-apartheid struggle = U.S. civil rights struggle.  Similar to # 3


What if we took these ways of misreading and applied them to Andersen Cooper's work?
Any misreading in his reporting?




Video comes from the DVD which accompanies Cooper's book Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival,



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GlobalMedia: International Journalism: The CNN Effect & the Social Media Effect [VID] (W12-P2) Sp17


In his book, Global Communication: Theories, Stakeholders, and Trends, Thomas McPhail defines the CNN effect as "the process by which the coverage of a foreign event by CNN causes that event to be a primary concern for its audience, which in turn forces the federal government to act."  One could add to the U.S. government, then as part of its foreign policy, may influence foreign governments/peoples through direct action (e.g., war) or through sanctions.  See video clip below.



Does CNN still have this influence on foreign policy?  Any other news networks, U.S. or otherwise, have this influence?  Any other form of media now has this influence?  Think: Arab Spring (see first 2 minutes).  Think: Kony2012 (see short clip).  What role does social media play in shaping foreign policy?  How's that process work?

The "social media effect" is defined here as the process by which the coverage of an event on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube  etc. causes that event to be a primary concern for its audiences around the world, which in turn forces foreign governments to act, thus further influencing the event.

See clip below for more the idea of social media effect.






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GlobalMedia: International Journalism: North Korea & Theories of the Press (W12-P1) Sp17

North Korea: An Example

What type of press system does North Korea have?  See What is the North Korean media like?




What are the different types of press systems around the world?


In the late 1950s Siebert, Peterson and Schramm (aka Uncle Wilbur) identified four types of press systems that existed in countries up until the 1950s.

They published their findings in their book titled Four Theories of the Press: The Authoritarian, Libertarian, Social Responsibility and Soviet Communist Concepts of What the Press Should Be and Do (Illini Books)

In the book they highlight the relationship between the form of government that a nation has and the press that operates within it.



The four theories:

  1. Authoritarian
    1. Purpose of the Press: To serve and promote the government/rulers
    2. Ownership of Press: private or public
    3. Notes/Examples: England/Western European countries 19th century and before; Afghanistan under the Taliban
  2. Soviet-Communist
    1. Purpose of the Press: To serve and promote the government or the Communist party
    2. Ownership of Press: public
    3. Notes/Examples: Soviet Union and other communist countries
  3. Libertarian
    1. Purpose of the Press: To inform (i.e., present the facts) and monitor the government
    2. Ownership of Press: Mostly private
    3. Notes/Examples: England
  4. Social Responsibility
    1. Purpose: To monitor the government.  While another purpose is to inform (i.e., present the facts to) the citizens, this press system goes beyond just presenting the facts to promoting understanding and discussion/debate related to those facts.  
    2. Ownership of Press: Private
    3. Notes/Examples: U.S., Canada

What would it be like being a journalism student or a journalist working in these different press systems?

Do you think that these four theories still adequately describe the types of press systems that operate in the countries of today?  Does, for example, the introduction of social media, require modifications to the four theories?

The work of Siebert, Peterson and Schramm has received criticism and updating.  If you are interested, see for example the following books.


Last Rights: Revisting Four Theories of the Press (History of Communication)

Normative Theories of the Media: Journalism in Democratic Societies (History of Communication)




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