Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gaza, Teheran or Lahore: Who Chooses The News?

Yesterday, I opened the Jewish Press and it had a story about Hollywood and other entertainment ditzerati who have decided that they are boycotting Israel. Israel's latest provocation was the Gaza flotilla fiasco, in which 9 people were killed. The same day, a mosque was attacked by suicide bombers in Pakistan, who inflicted around 100 casualties. But the spotlight of the news media was shining on Gaza, so the Pakistani mosque bombing got buried.

A point that is lost in presenting the Gaza flotilla story is that Israel is defending itself against a neighbour that has declared its desire to aid in wiping Israel off the map. Terror bombings and rocket attacks attacks launched from Gaza and PA controlled territories are periodic reminders that Hamas means what they say.

Who decides what makes the news? Last June, Iran was in the midst of violent upheavals following its blatantly fraudulent elections. Why did Iran fade from the front pages of the newspapers and from the 6 o'clock news? Did peace descend upon that troubled land? No it did not. There are still prisoners there as well as an underground opposition.

The stories generated by China, Iran, Cuba and every other country in the world are commodities. Stories are rotated on the front pages for the same reason that top 40 songs are regularly rotated. People want new stories. People want variety. That is understandable. News is not only information but entertainment. But what about the events that are relegated to the back pages of the news that touch millions of lives? Shall we allow our view of the world to be shaped by those who choose the news for us?

I have a tiny readership, in proportion to the billions of news consumers on line. I am, however a writer, and I get to choose my stories. On my own sites, and, I can run whatever stories I want. On my own sites, I have resolved to dedicate half of my stories to a rotating spotlight. In the course of a month to six weeks, I will rotate my focus around the globe. Iran, the Congo, Cuba, and Australia will be among the countries that I will focus upon. The other half of my stories will focus on America, Israel and Jewish issues. This is a logical choice for me. Canadian Protestants or a Japanese Buddhists could likewise be expected to view the world from their respective geographical and religious centers. My choice of a niche is logical.

On Indyposted, where I write news articles, I am constrained by the fact that it is a different medium. On my sites, I can be impassioned and strident. I can be recklessly indifferent to what has mass appeal. That is why Catalonian and Quebec rock music have a place on my sites. But on Indyposted, I have to make some effort to appeal to a far larger potential audience. It is for this reason that my topic choice on will be different. Despite this, I do intend to "circle the globe" with my news stories on The difference will be that I will attempt to reconcile my story choices with public interest trends.

Not every story about the Congo or Rwanda has to be about war or genocide. Sometimes a human interest story or musical presentation from a troubled region can be far more effective in presenting the population of a war zone as sharing with the reader a common humanity.

I was hurt and offended by the Hollywood figures boycotting Israel. But the boycott raised the deeper question of who chooses the view we have of the world. Who decides whether 100 dead end up on page 1 or on page 43? By choosing to write news, I am giving myself the opportunity to make these decisions. I am one writer. I may well forever remain as obscure as I am today, with a daily readership that could probably squeeze into my living room.

But I hope other bloggers and other news writers will also ask themselves the same questions that I have presented today. Other writers will certainly come up with a different focus than I have chosen.

Why are we reading about a crumbling celebrity marriage one day and Afghanistan the next day? Why do some stories fade from the back pages while other stories linger on the front page of our daily paper? Hopefully, more writers will ask these questions and more readers will demand such a focus. Creating a more complete picture of the world we live in might be the first step to making it a better place.

The picture at the top of this article was uploaded from Flickr

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