By Jana Echterhoff
Watching the news in order to keep informed – this was something I always considered necessary for myself. I usually enjoyed to hear about interesting, new things happening around the world. Crisis? Of course, there are always regions where the usual balance is interrupted. However, the overall image always seemed to say: “Look, it is not going too bad here”. I slowly start to figure out that it is hard to keep that good faith at the moment. IS, Ebola, Ukraine – watching the news recently reminds me more of an a bit too exaggerated Hollywood-Drama.
Of course, it is the duty of every serious TV-channel to report on crises if there are some. The planners cannot spare out the Ukraine-crisis, because there has already been a four-minutes piece on Ebola. Still, I have the feeling that something is going wrong. First, what is so fundamentally wrong with the world that there are not many alternatives to reporting about either terrorism, diseases or wrongly understood ‘policy-making’? Secondly, how is it possible that journalism even makes the attempt to squeeze terrorism, mortal disease and political tensions between East and West into 30, sometimes even 15 minutes of news-report?
It is hard to answer the first question – a blog-article of around 500 words is certainly not enough to do so. Apart from that, a second year European Studies student on its own should not even make the attempt to analyse this topic without sufficient background-knowledge. However, the other issue is of a more arguable nature. Some weeks ago, even a famous German news-anchor-man admitted that “this topic does not deserve only 30 seconds within our 30 minutes news-report. However, there are so many hot spots around the world that we did not have a choice”. It was the IS-terror in Syria that only occupied 30 seconds. If there is Ebola spreading and Russia expanding, there is just not enough time for IS.
How is that possible though? And should that be possible? The media give us an image of the world and we depend on that image. Of course, it is possible to review the reports critically and try to gather information from many different sources. However, this does only work to some extent. In the end, we are informed on basis of newsfeeds and the main-news. And the people that design these news can decide which information we get and which we do not. To be fair, it is certainly not easy to prioritise the ‘most pressing’ topic. If there is not too much happening in the Middle East on one day, but the Ukraine-crisis experiences a major watershed – what would you do if you just had 30 minutes?
It is still a quite adventurous aim to try to ‘summarise’ all things happening on the world in such a short amount of time. Maybe that is the general problem. Globalisation is necessarily linked to communication and information. Newspaper, social media and TV-channels are certainly main means to do so. In particular the latter aim to give detailed background on every hot spot around the world. In a reasonable time-span, of course. It is just a necessity that ‘less important’ topics need to step back sometimes. The problem about it: the audience simply does not see those news that do not appear. In some cases that is probably not that much of a problem, but what happens if IS-terror is regarded as not being too important? The result of this media-approach is, unfortunately, too apparent at the moment. The Middle East seems like an uncontrollable monster which is simply horrifying now. It would, of course, be too easy to only blame the media for this development, but they certainly had their share. And I think that this is simply not an acceptable way to comply with the media’s obligation to inform. An obligation on which we all depend.