A Global Perspective

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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
  • SkyNews
  • EuroNews
  • 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.

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  • 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.

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Comments

  1. says

    hmmmm I never really thought about how news would be presented in other countries … then again I pick and choose how I get my news stories because I believe watching the 11:00 news is entirely depressing (and I can’t stay up that long.) I usually get wind of news stories through twitter and then tune in to them or read up on them immediately on my 24 hour news channel instead of waiting for the nightly news.

    Hmmmm this got me thinking about news!

  2. says

    I think that’s a big difference, though — when you watch the news in other countries, they cover truly WORLD affairs (beyond Europe into Africa, Asia and the Americas). Even when you watch ‘World News Tonight’ or other non-local news programs in the US, the chances are slim they will actually discuss any international events outside of a war zone or something sensational like Amanda Knox.

    BBC News airs on most/all PBS stations — definitely worth watching for a different perspective.

  3. says

    Great picture! I can’t believe you made it without checking email. How many did you have when you got back?! I checked mine once every day or two.

    Totally agree with you on the different new perspective. I always like the International news a little better.

  4. says

    I loved watching Al Jazeera every morning when I spent a semester in Kenya- the coverage was so comprehensive and truly world-wide. I wish the US wasn’t so afraid of Al Jazeera- they’re not perfect, of course, but I appreciate that they don’t shy away from the tough stuff.

  5. says

    Wasn’t it a amazing feeling to be free from all of your electronic tethers? We don’t realize how bound we are to the constant influx of info until it’s gone. It’s rather wonderful, I think.

    I love watching the news in foreign countries. I am often disgusted by what is considered “news” here and the manner in which it is reported. I consider it a large part of the dumbing down of America. I occasionally search the upper channels of my cable and find BBC News, Sky News and even Al Jazeera. The change in perspective is sometimes refreshing.

    Oh, and love your hair and that magnificent view in front of you. The Coliseum is rather awe-inspiring.

  6. says

    One of the things I love about traveling is getting a more thorough and well-rounded view of the world. I often feel like the longer we listen to exclusively American news, the more simple-minded and ego-centric we become. But of course this applies not only to news-watching. Just getting out of our comfort zone and traveling elsewhere accomplishes so much as well.

  7. kat says

    Wow, honestly, I’m surprised at your shock at the global coverage of news versus that of US coverage given your degree?! Maybe I’m ignorant, but here in Australia it’s taken as a given that a lot of US media is overly US-centric. Even as a 12 yr old holidaying in the US I remember watching the news and asking my parents about the rest of the world news. Why do you think that is? I’m not America bashing here, but having lived in 5 countries ,US included – it is the ONLY place that gave little world perspective. Of course, I know there are reputable sources if you hunt them down, but it is the norm to cover most world stories here in Oz. How much government control is there over news corporations or are they all private?

    The Knox case is an interesting one, as I have read several Uk based/European based opinions and of course the US ones. Bias gone crazy of course – but then, yes, I have heard of Kercher. Her name is what is mentioned first over here. I find American media fascinating – it’s just SO different.

  8. says

    Reason #682018 why I believe international travel is so important. This level of awareness isn’t possible without it.

    P.S. Glad to hear you had an amazing trip :)

  9. says

    I’ve felt the same way when traveling abroad in Europe during the last presidential election and experiencing the 1st anniversary of 9/11 while in Spain, studying abroad. American news sources are so incredibly biased and cursory at best. After having an international perspective on news it saddens me that 1. our media broadcasts such crap (sorry, no better word I can think of for it) and 2. so many people in this country believe it and take it at face value.

  10. says

    Everytime I visit America I make a point of viewing news websites that are either pitching to a global audience or mainly another country like the BBC., purely due to the bias of all US media agencies.

  11. says

    I definitely think it’s important to see what’s important news-wise in other parts of the country. Sometimes I’ll watch BBC news just to get another perspective on things. It’s so interesting to hear alternative takes and how things are positioned!

  12. says

    I tend to watch news stories online so I don’t really focus on where I’m actually getting it from. I need to be better about getting various perspectives instead of just the same ones I’m used to. While I had heard of the victim’s name before, it doesn’t easily rattle off my tongue as quickly as I can come up with Amand Knox’s. Without actually seeing all of the evidence for myself though, I find it hard to truly judge.

  13. says

    Katy — really enjoyed this post. SUCH a good point and reminder to myself to step away from the network news that is on in my office all day. I always find it interesting when I find myself stopped on international channels and maybe I should do that more often. It would be an interesting experiment to document the differences (if I had the time!) Anyway, now I’m pining for a foreign trip!

  14. says

    Interesting perspective. We ended up watching no TV while we were away and therefore got basically no news for three weeks. Have spent the past week finding out all sorts of random important things (and not so important) that happened while we were away.

  15. says

    Truly enjoyed this post, Katy. I majored in broadcast journalism as well, so I appreciated many of the points you made from that perspective. Having been fortunate enough to travel abroad a few times, I agree that global coverage is very different — for the better. Of course there are great stories that get told in American press every day, but too often I go to the homepage of any news website and see nothing but dire headlines. It must have been very refreshing — not to mention it sounds like an overall great trip!

  16. says

    whenever i can “unplug” from the world, it’s always an amazing feeling. i definitely understand where you’re coming from as it relates to a global perspective about the news.. i watch bbc a lot for a few reasons a) few or no commercials, b) the reporting is so much more concise and doesn’t seem as sensationalize.. and they truly provide a world view on everything…

  17. says

    GREAT POST! I totally noticed this when we were in Europe as well. I can remember saying to Eric, “oh, I had no idea this was happening” about some of the news that was covered – and we’re Canadian so it’s not just US media that is like that. I feel like North America really is in it’s “own little world” sometimes.

  18. says

    Ever since we got cable at my parent’s house they swear by European News. They learn more aobut our own country’s headline from the foreign press. I didn’t believe them at first but its true. News really means something outside this country. I’m now fascinated by it.

    I’m glad you had such a wonderful trip.

  19. says

    Loved reading this post. As a journalist, I get giddy when I travel to different countries. I love reading the local newspapers and watching the local news. After all, each country has different insight on world events and different takes on what is and isn’t appropriate to say too!

    Cheers,
    Kristina

  20. says

    Loved reading this post. As a journalist, I get giddy when I travel to different countries. I love reading the local newspapers and watching the local news. After all, each country has different insight on world events and different takes on what is and isn’t appropriate to say too!

    Cheers,
    Kristina

  21. says

    whenever we are in europe I watch BBC. I think the news sounds so much better in an english accent anyway. haha. jk.
    But i do think its less exaggerated. am i wrong?

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