Discussing
Why the United States needs Al Jazeera English

Robin Basselin

Jason Summers
April 15, 2011

Robin,

One of the most remarkable things I noted in my past time as an expat in Japan about the Christian community in that minority Christian nation was that those Christians held their faith identity before their national identity. They marveled at the notion of national or regional identity being a barrier between Christians and modeled that belief via multiethnic congregations in a nation troubled by a history of xenophobia. American Christians might well benefit from adopting more of that attitude and dislodging their faith from their national identity.

js

StrngeFruit
April 15, 2011

Thank you for this article!
The 'otherization' that takes place in US culture, and the subsequent sidelining of those perspectives is so pervasive. Definitely something that Christians could be talking about more, in a way that would bring real progress! Let us remember how often Jesus makes deliberate efforts to bridge the divide between Jews and Samaritans. We as Christians good do a amazing things on this front.

Xioc1138
April 15, 2011

I love how the article doesn't blame the media for our lack of interest in international concerns. I'll add here that I think that is an important perspective to consider. The reason for this is simple: we like to blame the media for the way we think:

We're too violent. It's the media's fault.
We're too sexual. It's the media's fault.
We're too crooked. It's the media's fault.
We're too fat. It's the media's fault.

That didn't happen here (that I see, full disclosure, I'm running super thin on sleep so maybe I missed something.)

I'm thankful for that.

Rbasselin
April 15, 2011

Thanks for that example Jason. I wholeheartedly agree!

I think the Western church has so much to learn from the rest of the global Church. The tide IS changing though - Asian theologians are illuminating aspects of the gospel that we let extinguish, African believers are living in a fullness of Jesus' power that we have grown blind to, and the Latin American church has helped us rediscover that Word and deed work hand-in-hand (these are limited and quite oversimplified examples, but the lessons from believers of numerous people groups around the world are countless).

I am excited for the American church! If we can let go of control, the flood gates can open, and we can learn so much more about the fullness of God's kingdom.

n8carp
April 15, 2011

Thank you for your insight on the difference between ignorance and indifference--it's an importance difference.

We might also consider the way news itself has become a commodity in American culture. News is big business because it sells confirmation of one's own world view. In other words, we don't watch news to get information; we watch news in order to have talking heads tell us that our stereotypes and assumptions are correct, which helps explain why Fox and MSNBC thrive on political polarization. Sadly, Americans are (willingly?) stuck in this marketplace mindset about news in which the commodity value of news takes precedent over its potential for civic engagement.

Rickd
April 15, 2011

Unfortunately for my local newspaper, I’ve lost the habit of depending on the Oregonian for my news. I’v’e also stopped watching the big 3 broadcast news TV stations as millions of other have as well. For decades, this was our ONLY source of the news. Today I listen to Public Broadcasting radio as I commute to work. It covers a wider array of international stories, frequently in more depth, though as some would accuse, it has a decidedly liberal political bias. I balance that out by watching Fox news in the evening, also in depth and a conservative perspective. During the day I check frequently with CNN online to catch fast breaking stories. CNN often serves as a portal for me to the UK news tabloids whose perspectives are interesting. I will also scan Drudge and the Huffington post. I often read Sojourner’s take on issues as well. My cable TV has over 900 channels, my sattelite car radio, several hundred. Most Americans view TV news (especially the big 3) as a commoddity and I would not predict great success to Al Jeezera. I think most consumers are becoming much more savvy about news reporters having a point of view. There has never been a better time to be a world observer. “Americans just don’t care that we have a very insular view of the world”? Maybe 30 years ago, today not so much.

solid4JC
April 15, 2011

America is not alone in it's indifference to international news. Here in New Zealand our national t.v. channels run more of a 'Newsertainment' and in a 1hour 'News' 10 minutes will be international, 20 minutes New Zealand & 30 minutes sport! One of our free to air channel does run Al Jazeera English & even my conservative friends watch it to get a more rounded 'World view'.
I have found the radio to be better for a range of in depth news coverage & B.B.C. World in particular.When I lived in England in the 60s. I listened to the A.F.N. & then to Radio Beijing to get the opposite point of view on the same news!

Allan White
April 17, 2011

As a fellow OPB listener, I agree. Public radio is very popular in Oregon.

Getdclu
April 18, 2011

A well-written article, but you miss the point. Al Jazeera English is not the only international news service available to the American audience, and is quite biased in its objective. Why not the Jerusalem Post also, then? I disagree that all our disregard can be summed up as simply "islamophobia," but perhaps the academic & political elite have blinders on to the insidious nature of Shariah law and how the Imams here want to ratify that law in this country.

Rbasselin
April 18, 2011

Thanks for your comment Getdclue. I agree that we should be hearing from/watching multiple perspectives – Arab sources like Al Jazeera, Israeli sources, Chinese sources, British sources, etc. The essence of my post is to encourage American Christians (like myself) to learn more from the rest of world.

However, I am a little unclear about your reasoning in the second half of your comment. Would you like to elaborate? How does the content you posted connect with watching Al Jazeera? Do you believe that Al Jazeera espouses such views? Do you think we cannot learn more about those issues in general by better understanding an Arab worldview?

Jason Summers
April 18, 2011

Rick,

Your write, “'Americans just don’t care that we have a very insular view of the world'? Maybe 30 years ago, today not so much."

I certainly recall when, perhaps a year or two ago, I saw the Economist rise to become the most prominently displayed news weekly at kiosks and bookstores. Similarly I believe it has only been in the past few years that the FT can be easily purchased in even smaller airports. Even so, they are still minority publications (cf. http://www.npr.org/templates/s... ) and self-consciously snobbish ones at that (albeit ones I read).

Moreover the emergence of these from the far margin of the US market to merely the outskirts has coincided with the collapse of the foreign desks of many other news outlets, which may account for increased public appetite for such decidedly international coverage. It's also coincided with much public anxiety over America's place in the world---another driver.

My experience (and many market surveys) suggest that the exodus from network news and print journalism is fueled by internet news and specialty cable news which is either culled from various sources and largely underfunded with respect to foreign offices, or is targeted at specific readers with a specific cocktail of social/political/religious views and demographics. While you may be an outlier, many are engaging in a kind of journalistic form of The Big Sort.

js

Mgeertsma
April 20, 2011

Rick, while I don't doubt that you are well versed in international news, I believe you've slightly missed the point. All the news sources you listed can be great, and may "[cover] a wider array of international stories," but they are still western (and, more specifically, American).

The issue is not that our American news sources don't cover international stories (though they could certainly do a better job of that). Rather, it's that, even with an abundance of international sources available to us, we choose to consume news that is first filtered through a comfortable, familiar, western lens, denying us a greater understanding of the other. To learn ABOUT the other is not the same as learning FROM the other.

Rickd
April 20, 2011

I had to laugh when I read Solid4JC’s comment about the lack of an international news viewpoints in New Zealand. I think in reality you would hear that comment painfully expressed by nearly every country in the world...bemoaning the fact that all we hear is the Chinese news...or all we hear is the Bahrain News or the Nigerian News. Secondly, I don’t read Tagalog, Thai or Swahili. Perhaps you do. So I depend on translations of Al-Ahram in Egypt. I value hearing and watching firsthand reports from students in Egypt or rebels in Libya. Or the interview I heard with the week-old editor of Al-Ahram I heard yesterday or the editorials I read from the Jerusalem Post. Of course many reports are translated and have english commentary. I can read some Spanish, romance languages and High School latin. Perhaps you don’t have that limitation. I disagree with your statement that "with an abundance of international sources available to us, we choose to consume news that is first filtered through a comfortable, familiar, western lens, denying us a greater understanding of the other" The CBS, NBC and ABC American news monoliths with their highly paid talent are going out of business because people like me and millions of young people in America and millions in Egypt and Jordan and around the world are giving up passive news consumption and getting direct unvarnished news more through online portals. I doubt there is a country in the world, or in history for that matter, that has more variety of original news sources free and widely available. But I guess that no matter how much I read or watch, its just not good enough. Why is that?

Jason Summers
April 20, 2011

Rick,

I think a critical point to make is that Robin's article is not about you nor do your experiences really matter to the statistical nature of the point she is making. Good for you for following various news sources. However, your experience is not the median one.

js

Rickd
April 21, 2011

Good point. However, Robin didn't allude to any statistical information. We know that viewership of broadcast TV news is at its lowest in history. We know that local newspapers are losing readership and we also know that by any measure online viewership is going through the roof. A March 2011 Pew report says, "“Pew’s new report is a testament to the fact that the ways Americans get their news has changed dramatically over the last decade. And, although this may be seen as the beginning of the end to print newspapers and television news, this isn’t a bad thing for the future of our country. The internet has truly revolutionized how we consume and produce news." This isn't just my experience. As an owner of an Advertising agency, I have to know consumer trends and media consumption habits. If you feel different, I won't persist. It doesn't matter all that much and we are brothers in the Lord. Thanks.

Jason Summers
April 22, 2011

Rick,

I'm happy to have a conversation on this. I agree about the Pew report: yes, people are getting their news from different sources than they used to. The big question---which Pew does not address---is whether that is used by most consumer to obtain a greater breadth of views (as in your case) or to obtain a more narrowly focused news products. Robin and I seem to agree that the latter is true for the median consumer. Likewise, the internet (and cable news before it) has certainly enabled the latter by reducing the barriers to entry for media representing niche views. My empirical sense of things is that media consumptions is becoming more narrowly focused, not broader. I imagine you experience that in your business too: for example, the sorts of demographically targeted ads my parents and mother-in-law see on Fox news are ads I never see on ft.com, much less highly targeted media like monocle.com. In contrast, when I get the Sunday edition of the Washington Post or New York Times, ads run the gamut.

Now I will agree that for some consumers electronic delivery has chiefly had the effect of broadening their access to news outlets of different views, you are one example. Perhaps I'm naive, but I suspect that is not the norm.

js

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