Friday, November 12, 2010

Decontextualization: A Neverending Cycle?

In Hafez' article, "International Reporting," he takes a critical view as to the real effects of international reporting and does not see it as a globalizing factor. He criticizes international reporting by discussing the idea of decontextualization and the idea that it is a result of media consumers' limited knowledge of foreign settings. This immediately reminded me of the case of the capsizing boat in Orissa as described by Chouliarki in her article, "Symbolic Power of Transnational Media," in which she discussed the difference between extraordinary news and ordinary news and the factors that decide how the media will portray events of suffering. In the case of the capsized boat, the media had a short segment on the event, dehumanizing it all, only showing a red dot on a map as the story was told. The media is assuming (and probably rightly so) that its consumers do not have a clue where the Orissa province of India is, making it less important, and making a map necessary. They choose not to make this news event a teachable moment to talk more about the province -it's history or significance, because they assume that the consumer probably does not care. Because the consumer probably does not care, they are satisfied with simply throwing a red dot on a map and quickly telling the story which leaves the consumers no more interested or worried about the region than they were before the broadcast.

Note how this cycle of decontextualization does nothing to increase consumer knowledge or concern, nor does it do anything to affect social movement or aid for the situation at hand. Is this cycle the fault of the media or the fault of consumers? If the media assumes that a story is of no interest to its consumers then why would they report any more on it than they feel they have to? Perhaps the media should take it upon themselves to find more ways to connect these types of stories with its audience. If consumers are only really attracted to cases of suffering that affect people like themselves, then the media could at least use that knowledge to make the effort to report these stories in such a way so that consumers can understand how the suffering of these people could somewhat affect them. The media could also put more effort into making such stories more personal, showing the suffering of the people and devastation even though they may be 'the other.' Upon reading studies of the affects of international news and reporting, it is very apparent that biases and ratings cloud and hinder these forms of media from being a truly globalizing force.

Chouliarki, Lilie "The symbolic power of transnational media: Managing the visibility of suffering"

Hafez, Kai "International Reporting"

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you that news media does not typically delve into stories of suffering in faraway places to the level generally that provokes much of an emotional response. I do wonder how much of that is due to our general desensitization to images of suffering. Even when news reports cite numbers of dead in the tens of hundreds of thousands, it's hard for people to quantify the scale of tragedy those numbers imply. In order to make their hour of news more relevant, news media would have to do away with all their human-interest stories that draw many viewers in to begin with. I think a good part of the American population is in a sense, a bit withdrawn. The priorities of what is happening domestically take precedent over what is going on internationally because it is what affects them most directly. Americans are in the luxurious position to be able to not know where Odissa is. I think you raise a good question-if the blame of indifference to tragedy lies with the news media or viewers... Maybe the potential for a widespread transformative shift towards awareness of global issues starts with domestic stability? When people feel comfortable enough to look beyond their immediate concerns, then the world will open up.