This study examines international news coverage in local newspapers in Japan, a country with one of the most influential economies in the world. The study shows that local daily Japanese newspapers dependent on wire services for international copy devote more of their space to international news and produce more international news about conflict and disaster than do newspapers that do not depend on the services. International news coverage appears not to be related to circulation size. The authors compare the results to similar characteristics of U.S. dailies.
Despite an increasingly global economy, the vast majority of people in the world do not travel internationally. As Lippmann observed more than seventy-five years ago, people get their information about the world outside their community through the mass medial This dependence on mass media for information has led scholars to examine the relationship between national policy and media treatment of other countries.2 Some of these studies about international news coverage have concluded that news media overemphasize political and military conflicts and disasters.3 Meanwhile, studies about influences behind international news coverage fall into three types: content-oriented, context-oriented and organizational approaches.4
Although numerous studies of international news flow have been published, most such studies suffer from the use of nonprobability samples and most are limited to Western news media. Western studies have concentrated on a few large and prestigious dailies (e.g., the New York Times and Washington Post in the United States), producing results with limited generalizability. The four U.S. dailies with national influence (the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today) total about 5 million circulation, which is only 10 percent of the daily circulation in the United States. Although policymakers read these newspapers, the majority of voters who elect them do not. Studies of newspapers in other countries are similarly skewed.5 The result is a biased view of the international news that readers receive both in the United States and around the world.
A second limitation is that most studies have examined newspapers from the United States and Europe and ignored newspapers in other parts of the world.6 As a result, despite some scholars' contention that market systems have similar news values,7 empirical conclusions remain unclear as to whether the emphasis on conflict and disaster varies from country to country, or if countries around the world have similar types of coverage that reflects common news values.
The purpose of this study is to add to our knowledge of international news flow by using a national probability sample of Japanese local newspapers. It examines the amount of international news, examines whether the coverage is primarily conflict-oriented, and evaluates whether organizational variables are associated with conflict coverage. The study contributes to understanding through its use of a generalizable probability sample that looks at an often-overlooked type of newspaper in international research-the local daily in a non-Western country. In many countries, such local dailies sell a large number of copies.8
Japan was selected because it is one of the most influential economies in the world through its highly developed trade sector. Yet only two published studies of international coverage in Japanese newspapers was found. One used a small convenience sample,9 and the other did not examine organizational variables.10 Therefore, this research will contribute to existing knowledge by examining if organizational variables are correlated with international coverage in Japanese local daily newspapers, as was found previously with Western newspapers.
The literature relating to this study is divided into two categories: conflict and disaster coverage and factors that influence international news coverage. …