A large majority of Americans are informed about what’s going on directly — and only — by what’s seen on the news. In the past month, this has meant Americans know about the Crimea crisis and the missing Malaysian flight 370. And these are the big stories…but that’s according to the country’s dominating media sources.
There are many other crises going on throughout the world that Americans may be aware of but likely forget to give thought to. South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Central African Republic, North Korea…these only begin the list. These situations are, unfortunately, no less tragic — and in reality rival, if not to some views advance past — the main stories U.S. homes are bombarded by when turning on Fox or CNN each night.
The cartel violence in Central America is destroying communities across the continent, but refugee status is rarely granted to those ultimately deemed “illegal immigrants” seeking safety and survival in the U.S. and even Mexico. As drug lords are captured and cartels simultaneously continue to massacre families and groups of villagers, neither side of the war on — or of — drugs garners much media attention. With less public awareness comes even lesser chance of refugee considerations being extended to those fleeing transnational cartel brutalities because there is little public pressure on legislators. The granting of protected, stable residency is the difference between life and death for many around the world, and the countries just below the nation’s southern border are no exception, though they often are treated as though that is the case. And yet, an on-air slot nodding to the crucial and devastating violence is simply not ever present.
The Syrian crisis dictated much of the media’s airtime subject last fall. Now, barely six months later, one is hard-pressed to find any television note of a Middle Eastern catastrophe that has expelled millions of Syrians from their home state — pushing not only refugees past neighboring borders, but also a fair amount of the violence. Serving as only one example, Lebanon’s stability is faltering due to the intake of more than one million refugees to its territory alone.
While foreign policy is extremely contingent upon economic, militarily and territorially strategic ties, the argument that the U.S. stays out of certain conflicts and not others should not translate to media coverage. Journalism has the ability to play a proven, key role in shifting public opinion, and therefore, to a certain extent, U.S. policy, by crafting the issues Americans are exposed to, knowledgeable of and magnetized to bringing change to.
If one were to actively seek news outside the topics of Russian expansion and aviation tragedy, there are extensive, incredibly well-written articles on crises around the world online — one simply needs to browse Al Jazeera America, The LA Times, The New York Times, and certainly others. CNN has numerous videos online of on-going coverage focused on a plethora of international news issues.
If all of the material is available, why is it so rarely a priority on television time slots? Airtime is precious, yes. But it seems that recently, the same couple of stories have been playing on a loop on the major networks — just look at CNN’s extensive, if not exhausting, coverage of Flight 370. These issues are important, but why so much more important than all of the other decisive crises? How much should the media capitalize on the public’s love for sensationalist media, and how much should the media step in and educate — rather than conform to — what the mass public seems to crave from its televisions?