Why Americans don’t know much about the world.

Let’s face it, coverage of the rest of the world by US media outlets sucks.

There is a great web site — Media Cloud — that lets you see how often a news organization mentions a country. You can even set up comparisons. The darker the color, the more stories mentioning that country.

To make life easy for folks I ran a few comparisons.

The Washington Post v. The New York Times v. BBC

We expect the United States to be a major part of the Post and Times coverage. It is the non-USA coverage that is interesting.

New York Times

Washington Post


And now let’s look at broadcasters:

ABC News v. CBS News v. BBC

NBC was not on the list. Notice how Latin American, except for Venezuela hardly exists for CBS. And maybe ABC is better because of their mini-bureaus. And Africa hardly exists for either of the U.S. broadcasters.

ABC News

CBS News


And lastly, let’s take a look at the big cable operations

CNN v. Fox v. BBC

CNN is the clear winner in the U.S. cable company race but both Fox and CNN pale compared to the BBC.


Fox News


And just for fun, I wanted to see how Voice of America and the BBC compared to each other. I know that VOA cannot, by law, direct its broadcasts to a U.S. audience, but like the BBC they are a government backed organization with a charter guaranteeing their editorial independence.



Bottom line is that the BBC outshines the U.S. news organizations. With limited coverage — and much of it superficial, focusing on wars, coups  and natural disasters instead of politics, economics and society — is it any wonder that most Americans have little or no information about what is really going on in the world? I wonder when the media organizations will catch up to the rest of the world and see that with globalization and instant communication, knowing the political, social and economic situation of other countries is vital to an informed American public.

And when will the media bean counters understand coverage of the rest of the world does not mean sending someone overseas.

The growing immigrant population in the United States offers so many opportunities to expand foreign coverage. Tie in AP or other wire copy with a local ethnic community and you have a foreign affairs story with a local angle.

Or pay attention to just who owns the local factories. For example, don’t you think it would be worthwhile for the Marysville, Ohio, newspaper to run a few stories — from the wires — about what is happening in Japan? After all, Marysville is ground zero for Honda in the United States. And examples galore are all over the country.



Filed under International News Coverage, Story Ideas

2 responses to “Why Americans don’t know much about the world.

  1. Pingback: Journalism and the World » Blog Archive » Global reporting=Global Awareness

  2. Pingback: jessicaanne : Did you know?

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