While I was away on my European adventure, I did not check my email. I did not make any phone calls. I did not tweet, post a Facebook status update or even log onto a computer (except for a few brief moments to book and confirm some last-minute transportation).
I soaked up the culture, navigated through face-to-face contact and loved every moment of un-handcuffing myself from technology.
Except for one thing. TV news.
We stayed in a series of teeny hotels while traveling — a 6-room bed and breakfast in Venice; a closet-sized cubby in Brussels. And while none of them offered many modern features, they did all have televisions. And so I watched things like:
- BBC News
- Guidice Amy (Judging Amy in Italian)
And if you think back to some of the big stories that broke over the last two weeks, it was a great time to get a global perspective on news.
- Amanda Knox’s appeal/verdict
- Steve Jobs’ death
- Financial crises and protests
And perspective truly is the right word. I majored in broadcast journalism, spent years in daily news and now executive produce a television show that airs on PBS and public TV stations. I live and breathe news (and hate some of the crap that masquerades as news today). And yet somehow, I don’t think I really ever got a sense of the full story until seeing its coverage outside of the United States.
Take Amanda Knox. The coverage here in the States has largely focused on her — leaning, I believe, toward her innocence and wrongful conviction in an Italian court. Overseas, thought, the coverage was a bit more balanced. Sure, Knox got a lot of support, especially when it came to the DNA evidence (or lack thereof). But so did the family of victim Meredith Kercher. Be honest — did you know her name before you read it here?
The Wall Street protests made news, but so did the talks between Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, who are trying to figure out who’s going to pay for the Greek bank bailout. So did the Dexia bank collapse. So did the protests across most European cities (something I got to see in action as Rome exploded with riots).
I can’t say that coverage overseas was better than we get here — but I can say, after two weeks of analysis, that it offers a wider look at the news and stories that affect people of all cultures, from all different countries. I saw reports from Syria, Africa and Iraq, and not just about conflicts or bombings. I learned about schools that have been set up to educate children, and volunteers who are working to end illness.
I heard accents and intonations that I’ve never heard in American media (save for maybe NPR) and came away from each story with at least one “a-ha” moment — that seems to be rare for my experience here at home.
Sure, I missed my American sports updates…and yes, I did wonder what was happening with the weather or regional news. But now that I’m home, I missed the news that I’d fallen in love with, and I’m wondering whether I’ll ever have everything I want, right in one place.