October 2001

Distorted world media

The coverage of the terrorist attacks in the United States has provoked some soul-searching in the Finnish media about how we perceive the world and who influences the way we see the meaning of news events.

"If we drew a world map based on the foreign news coverage, it would look very different from the geographical map", writes Maila-Katriina Tuominen in the regional daily newspaper Aamulehti (29 September 2001).

"It would be a distorted world map with Western European countries and North America as dominant areas. The countries which now are in the centre of the news — Afghanistan and Pakistan — would not be even visible on this map."

Tuominen thinks it is a paradox that the recent events and their coverage have opened up a whole new world to people who follow the news. Suddenly, the news is not only about the United States and Europe. Now people actually know where Afghanistan is; they know which countries are its neighbouring states and where the Afghan refugees head for.

"Americans and Europeans, who have been living with one-sided news flows, finally must understand that news coverage which concentrates on elite countries and elite citizens has created a distorted view of the world. So distorted, in fact, that it is difficult to analyse in a credible way reasons which have led to a new threat of war."

Tuominen refers to reasearch which over the decades has shown how messages sent from a few news superpowers reach almost every country in the world. In this flow of news, Anglo-American material has a leading status. Finnish reasearchers have also observed how the new media technology tends to make news criteria more uniform. These criteria are then accepted practically everywhere.

In this equation, news coming from outside the international news centres are most probably about wars and disasters, Tuominen writes.

"Although news journalism must be examined as one form of power, one has to remember that makers, subjects, and receivers of the news are all human beings, wherever in the world they are.

"Human joys and sorrows are as great in the United States as in Afghanistan."

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