March 7, 2008

Where is foreign policy in the discussion?

While we teach the basics of writing, interviewing and editing, we should also be instilling in our students the importance of identifying what is news.

Too often too many journalists end up taking the easy way out by focusing on what is in front of them for their stories. Publishers and editors repeat the mantra of "Local. Local. Local" over and over again.

And reporters go out and do local stories with no thought about how national and international events may have impacted or impact those local events.

When the editors and reporters do pop their heads up from the local scene to see the rest of the world they see war, disasters and unrest. So they pull back in after letting us know that the rest of the world is also a mess.

Rarely do we see articles or broadcasts about political and social issues in other countries and how those issues might affect us.

A good example is how the presidential campaign is being covered.

If we are to believe the media accounts of the campaign the only foreign policy issues that matter are immigration and the war in Iraq.

Take a look at the screen capture on the right from the CNN political web site.

Immigration, Iran, Iraq and Free Trade are the international issues they are covering for the candidates.

And yet, where are the stories about these issues?

And are these the sum total of the international issues the next president will have to face? Are these the only international issues that affect the American people?


Before we can get more and better coverage of how the rest of the world affects us -- other than cheap Wal-Mart goods, Japanese cars, and terrorism -- we have to have journalists who understand there is a connection between Main Street and the rest of the world.

That is why my required reading includes "The World is Flat" bu Tom Friedman and why I am having my students interview foreign correspondents.

Most of my students already know there is more to the world than the limited view presented by most of the main stream media. I am hoping to give them more ammunition to take on the rest of the ostriches in our profession.

There is no reason we, as journalism instructors, cannot stretch our students' minds and views so they do not fall into the trap of Local, Local, Local and little or no sense of how the local and the international are linked.

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