World Focus on the World’s Bellybutton

Riding on the sidewalk but not for long

In which I get wonky and talk about the media… How would an American nonprofit news program about “the world” be constructed? (or does 1010 WINS really think they’ve covered the world in 22 minutes?)

WNET, Channel 13, in New York recently replaced the 6 pm BBC show with a new show called World Focus. I’ve watched two episodes and you can browse through different stories and make comments on the website. The BBC is not listed as a partner. While the show seems to care a lot about what foreigners think of America, I was flummoxed by one of interviews they put out.

Early in the month, they interviewed a Palestinian who said Palestine doesn’t care about the U.S. elections because both candidates have such similar supportive views of Israel. This was immediately followed by an interview which said most Chinese people who don’t even know who the candidates are. Today, NPR stated that about 1/3 of the Chinese population is closely following the U.S. election. Which is it? What’s the point in telling us some people don’t care about us? Should they?

On the same broadcast, there was a story on there about food shortages and high taxes in Argentina but there was scarcely any back story about Argentina’s recovery from bankruptcy seven years ago. In 2004, Naomi Klein and others made a film about Argentinian workers occupying factories to get them going again. Tellingly, one of the organizers stated in the film, “What’s happening in Argentina now is going to happen to other industrialized countries.” You’d think this story would warrant a longer treatment and not just marvel at how much fruit costs. (Yes, I love that “I told you so” stuff.)

In the broadcast today, a story about talks with the Taliban could have been served better with a brief history of the Taliban’s formation.

I’m not sure how well we’re served by a USA Today style world news show with sound-bite stories though I suppose given the ignorance of some Americans, we should take our slightly better non-commercial news where we can get it. The international group Reporters Without Borders again ranked the U.S. in the 30s in terms of freedom of the press but I don’t think this show is going to help much in that regard and could use some improvement. All in all, in conclusion, therefore…

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