AR; On international news and the internet

Guy Berger writes about how the internet affects (or at least proposes to affect) the concept, idea, practice and flow of international news (the article is about to be published in the International Communication Gazette).

“This article shows that while some First World media […] are chanting the mantra of becoming ‘hyperlocal’, it is much of the first world that is experiencing the Internet as an international medium, albeit from a subordinate cultural and linguistic position.”

I wasn’t entirely convinced with the the paper; there were a bit too many connections only briefly pointed at, neglected or presented somewhat hazily, so that it all did not come together as a coherent argument. That said, it has some good and interesting points.

First, it offers a typology of news. I haven’t read too many things on international journalism, but I can imagine that little consensus could exist among scholars (and professionals) on what is “international”, “global”, “transnational” or “foreign” news. Berger offers a straightforward system of conceptualization taking into account four dimensions: the source, the content, the distribution and the audience (actual and/vs. intended) of news items; based on these he distinguishes transnational, global, international, local (domestic) and foreign news. (Details in the paper, I don’t think it’s necessary to dwell to much on that here.)

Second, it pointedly describes the paradox of the “we can, but we don’t” – so the paradox that the so-called “First World” is really well equipped to offer people high quality, varied and comprehensive international news, and yet ignorance and disinterestedness about foreign issues seems to be growing. Berger argues that one reason behind this might be tied to the self-fulfilling prophecy of editors (“people are not interested in it, so why should we print it?”).

On top of that, media are seen as focusing more and more on “the local” (‘hyperlocal parochialism’), because

“local” is the core (and main remaining) value proposition for newspapers (and also most broadcasters) when almost all other content is claimed to be available online and free.

This is all the more disturbing, argues Berger, because “First World” media organs are still the dominant ones – in global comparison – in supplying what somewhere could be seen as international news; thus developing countries’ audiences still have to rely to a great extent on these former – which leaves them at a disadvantaged position. The internet could not – at least so far – do away with the global imbalance in the flow of news.

While the conclusion might stand, I’m not sure about the argument on ‘hyperlocal parochialism‘. Reading a lot about citizen journalism, I became convinced that it is precisely the field of local contents where grassroots journalism can compete the most with the established media.

Berger, Guy (2009): “How the Internet Impacts On International News: Exploring Paradoxes of the Most Global Medium in a Time of ‘Hyperlocalism'”, in: International Communication Gazette Vol. 71 (5), 355-371.

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