Burriss on Media: International News

Apr 1, 2013

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (BURRISS)  --  What do most Americans know about foreign cultures, and what kinds of pictures of foreign countries do we get from the news? Well, there is something of a formula for the kinds of news we get about other places: floods, famine and fires; coups and catastrophes. Or, if there is good news, it's all about foods, festivals and famous people.

Unfortunately, this kind of perspective can lead to stereotypes in how we see people from foreign lands.
Take a moment to think about what you know about, for example, Mexico. We know a lot about Cinco de Mayo, Santa Ana, and tacos, but not a whole lot about health care, economics or political activities. And because of this, what kinds of images do you have of Hispanic neighbors and co-workers?

Or look at China, Japan, Thailand and Korea. We know a lot about Oriental buffets, the Year of the Dragon and flooding along the Yangtze River. But what about child care, education or science? So again, the question is, "what kinds of images do we have of the world outside our immediate home towns.

Even the clichés and stereotypes we have of such benign places as France, England and Germany can lead to misunderstandings and confusions.

Obviously, those of us in the news business come at these issues from a somewhat different perspective. Children, and the adults who teach them, however, need to get information from a variety of sources. And it is adults who need to understand that there is more to learn about foreign countries than the aforementioned small slices of life.

As we've seen with concerns about television violence, drug-related music and explicit internet sites, there are no simple answers or controls. But as we’ve also seen, the answer to wrong communications is simply more, and more accurate information.

I'm Larry Burriss.