Tuesday, May 09, 2006

“The Impact of Great News Events” Reviewed

[In the name of scholarship, I publish this. I am an undergraduate journalism student. Perhaps this will help someone out there. It certainly does me any good just sitting around.]

In an article entitled, “Global News and Information Flow,” by Kuldip R. Rampal, a number of global news sources are discussed. These sources share one major thing in common: they are all mostly Western news sources. This article, entitled, “The Impact of Great News Events,” by William A. Hachten and James F. Scotton explore the consequences of a Western media on the globe.

To start off, the article opens with an illustration of the Berlin Wall destruction and how this event emptied the supermarkets and video shops of West Berlin since East Berlin people were so happy to get West Berlin stuff. The conclusion then, is that the Western media had an impact on public opinion and played a role in raising expectations and breaking the communists monopoly on information and popular culture. People obviously were desirous for new goods not found in their country because they heard, somehow, that these goods were good.

It can be said, based on this article, that Western communication brought on the end of the communist press idea. Hachten however, does not go as in depth on this as he does in another article he wrote, entitled, “Changing Ideologies of Press Control.” In his second article, he describes the Chernobyl disaster as a way of showing how communist press fell apart. In the communist press idea, news itself is only “positive” and a nuclear meltdown was not relevant. However, the Chernobyl disaster really showed the communist media could not deal with foreign competition since foreign media were reporting on the death and problems while the communist media was resisting it – sacrificing the lives of their own audience. Needless to say, citizens did not take kindly to this ideology of the communist press.

In this article, Hachten looks primarily at television programs, and other factors of the consumer nature of the Western press as ways of enticing communist bloc countries to “convert” to Western media. The fact is, according to this article, that the communist countries were just not technologically advanced to meet the new demands the Western media was generating. In other words, communism was just not fit to compete against capitalism. Hachten would agree with this statement, since he sees the media as intrinsically tied to either capitalism and consumerism in the West, or the state in the East. Add this factor, to the problem of Russian news media actually endangering the lives of citizens as stated in the previous paragraph – and one can understand how the Western media really did have an impact.

This article focuses itself however, and looks to specific events to show how the media had an impact. In the revolutionary acts in 1989, the news coverage of these events did three things according to Hachten: The events helped report things are happening and times are changing; The events showed the world was watching; The events showed that anti-communist demonstrations were possible.

When coup attempters arrested Mikhail Gorbachev and closed down all media – they assumed a nation would like the changeover. According to Newsweek, as quoted by this article, “the coup leaders apparently relied on popular indifference and fear of authority. But those are not the attributes of people in the know. And last week, Russians proved that they have entered the information age.” The people rejected the takeover through unfettered news coverage according to this article.

This article goes onto suggest that the same type of mentality is prevailing in China – where China’s leaders assume the nation would agree with their authority. However, unfettered news access and lack of central control is slowly deteriorating the central authority.

China, in their acceptance of capitalism, as this article suggests, is actually accepting a freer media. As an example, the article points to the number of satellites in China. Satellites are allowing people to connect uncensored to the global village. Ten years ago, in China, satellite dishes were banned from use. Today, it is unenforceable. An estimated 500,000 roofs have them. The Chinese Government estimates about 15 million people there have access to unrestricted multiple channel devices.

This article however, also goes on to talk about the potential downfalls of Western news impact on the globe. For example, some people feel that the media is being used by the media. This can be illustrated by the Iran hostage crisis, according to this article. In the Iran hostage crisis, the Iranian government counted on the fact that American media would report on the crowds gathered outside of the embassy supporting the hostage takers in order to shed light on the Iranian desires. NBC news even gave into unethical terrorist demands just to interview an American hostage. Some feel the foreign journalists were simply becoming puppets of the terrorists. Fred Friendly, former president of CBS said (in the article) the worst errors in coverage had been caused by a “haphazard frenzy of competition” and the compulsion to obtain “exclusives:” “We have to learn that they (the terrorists) watch TV. We need to get across that you can’t shoot your way onto our air,” said Friendly.

On the other hand, the article also points out that foreign coverage is needed as without it, we probably weren’t able to grasp foreign perceptions of the US, and in turn – understand a major terrorist attack like September 11 was imminent.

One problem with this article is that it is only concerned with a Western media’s interpretation of global events – particularly, the United States’ interpretation, as all of these events mentioned involve the United States. While it is good to analyze our media’s impact on other people, we must also analyze other forms of media and its impact on others. For example, China’s foreign press’ media impact on its own people must be looked at, as well as India’s, or Pakistan’s, or a number of other countries if we are to look at our own media’s impact on ourselves. Yes, the majority of big media conglomerations are Western, but that does not mean they are the only ones that exist. Al Jazeer has a wide audience, and their coverage of events undoubtedly influences other people as well. In addition, European coverage of American events should also be examined. Do they simply mirror American press style? Many “Western” news sources are both European and American. Would it not help to untangle this mess of a word we call “Western?”

Another major flaw in this article is that it seems to make too many conclusions without understanding other elements that may have led to an effect. For example, to state that the Western media helped lead to the “electronic execution of Soviet Communism” is a bold statement that cannot be verified. More statistical data must be provided to show how the Western media alone caused the downfall of the communist state, or even the communist press – besides simply a generalized conclusion the author implies we will accept as fact. Proof needs to be provided, and until then, much of this article becomes a thought experiment – supplying conceptual framework without any legitimate studies or solid evidence in certain areas where evidence should be provided to support a conclusion. Nonetheless, this article gives one much to think about in regards to the Western media’s coverage of foreign events.

0 --> 0ne <-- 1


Post a Comment

<< Home