Mapping an Economic "Globalization" News Paradigm: A Multi-National Comparative Analysis

Article excerpt

Although "globalization" has been widely addressed in the tradition of international communication, media reporting of it has not gained much attention in the globalization debate. This study is designed to collect some empirical evidence on the meaning construction of the 1997 Asian economic crisis and the International Monetary Fund bailouts within the context of the newly emerged "globalization" news paradigm. The examination of major themes, described causes and solutions to the crisis, and story context of five countries' news reports helps to detect the existence of a pro-neoliberal news frame.

For the press in the age ofglobalization, there is a need to sort out and make sense of the world. The concept ofglobalism has provided a new mandate for a different order of coverage of international affairs, especially economic connections.1

The mass media often act as agents of globalization.2 Sports events like the Olympics or World Cup and political events like the collapse of the Berlin Wall or the Gulf War have been covered by the news media across countries. More recently, the reporting of antiglobalization demonstrations in Seattle and Washington, D.C., in 2000 has kindled debate about the economic globalization process by multinational organizations, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This is a multi-national comparative study of major newspaper reporting of the 1997 Asian economic crisis and subsequent economic interventions by the IMF, a topic directly addressing the phenomenon of globalization and its associated problems. The media construction of meaning (or framing) of international economic crises and the responses of multinational monetary organizations was examined in the context of the newly emerged "globalization" paradigm.

"Globalization" has been discussed widely in the tradition of international communication. Thus far, however, news media reporting has not gained much attention in the globalization debate. Instead, there has been much research on the power of media, especially the technological or economic aspects, to act as globalizing forces. The question remains open about the reporting of globalization news.

After World War II, the mass media of most countries, particularly the United States and the Western alliance, adopted a Cold War perspective defining the world in a particular fashion, such as East against West, or socialism versus the democratic Western countries.3 It has been natural for the media to follow this perspective in reporting international affairs. Indeed, the media relied heavily on the Cold War as a frame in understanding and interpreting world events during the last several decades.4 In 1989, however, the collapse of the USSR ended the Cold War, leading the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center to observe:

The end of the Cold War has opened new horizons for the world media, but it has also confronted them with new challenges. One of the overarching issues for the media today is finding ways to make sense of a world in which change is the only constant. The old criteria for covering international affairs and many of the old standards of newsworthiness no longer apply in the post-Cold War world.5

In the last decade, the world has witnessed the emergence of "a new world order" where, in the words of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, "there is no alternative" to free market economics and neoliberalism.6 This new world order has come to be known as "globalization."

Obviously, considering the important role mass media play in disseminating globalization news, empirical research about that news coverage permits examination of how the media "construct" the meaning of globalization. With recent changes in technological, political, and economic structures, how have the media interpreted globalization, especially economic globalization? What frames have emerged as the world has become more economically interdependent and globalized? …