Using the Internet to Examine Patterns of Foreign Coverage: African Events Are Often Not Reported Because Western News Coverage Is Strongly Connected to a Nation's Wealth

By Zuckerman, Ethan | Nieman Reports, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Using the Internet to Examine Patterns of Foreign Coverage: African Events Are Often Not Reported Because Western News Coverage Is Strongly Connected to a Nation's Wealth


Zuckerman, Ethan, Nieman Reports


The first week of April 2003, several hundred people were killed in ethnic violence in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Given the magnitude of the event--up to a thousand civilians killed in a single incident--and the history of violence in the region, it made sense to expect media coverage. Shortly before the killings, the International Rescue Committee published a study suggesting that 3.3 million people had died as a result of conflicts in the DRC, making the ongoing violence in the region the deadliest war in the world since World War II.

But the events in Ituri went almost unreported. On April 7th, the first day American newspapers reported the killings, The New York Times ran a brief Associated Press story on the conflict, buffed on page A6. Google News, a Web site that monitors 4,500 news sources, listed only 1,200 stories in the preceding month that mentioned Congo. By contrast, on the same day Google News showed 550,000 stories for Iraq, and The New York Times ran five Iraq stories on the front page, as well as a separate section, "A Nation at War."

While it's predictable that the U.S. invasion of Iraq would squeeze most other news off the front page of American newspapers, it's only one of several reasons the conflict in Ituri received so little attention. In their seminal 1965 paper, "The Structure of Foreign News," Johan Galtung and Mari Holmboe Ruge proposed 12 factors that influence the publication of international news. While Galtung and Ruge's statistical analysis has been questioned, their proposed factors are still widely used by media theorists to explain the inclusion and exclusion of international news stories.

Galtung and Ruge, writing almost 40 years before the Congo event, could have predicted the events in Ituri would have been ignored in the United States:

* The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a "non-elite" nation.

* No "elite people" were killed in Ituri.

* There's little cultural proximity between the United States and the DRC.

* The conflict had little meaning for American readers.

* And the decade-long war in the region meant that further killings weren't unexpected.

Their analysis doesn't consider news-gathering factors--the difficulty of deploying reporters to northeastern Congo, language barriers, and the lack of communications infrastructure--all of which make it more difficult for reporters to cover the conflict in DRC, especially in contrast to the war in Iraq, which featured opportunities for reporters to be "embedded" within U.S. military units.

Global Attention Profiles

While Galtung and Ruge used 1,250 Norwegian newspaper clippings gathered over four years to propose their rules, the advent of Internet publishing gives us the opportunity to test some of their conclusions with hundreds of thousands of data points. Shortly after the incident in Ituri, I started collecting data from the Web sites of U.S. and British newspapers, news services, and television networks for a project I called Global Attention Profiles. My intention was to create daily maps of news stories to demonstrate graphically where Western media attention was focused. As the project progressed, I began to look for correlations to economic and political factors to explain the distribution of news.

My main conclusion: Andy Warhol was wrong--we won't all get 15 minutes of fame.

If this were true, populous nations like China, Indonesia and Brazil would be better represented in the Western media. Media attention, measured by the number of stories that mention a country by name, is correlated only loosely to a nation's population. It's correlated much more strongly to economic factors, especially to a nation's wealth, as measured by gross domestic product. For example, while Nigeria and Japan have roughly equal populations, Japan's economy is about 100 times the size of Nigeria's--and there are roughly seven times as many mentions of "Japan" as there are of "Nigeria" in the average American newspaper on any given day. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Using the Internet to Examine Patterns of Foreign Coverage: African Events Are Often Not Reported Because Western News Coverage Is Strongly Connected to a Nation's Wealth
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.