It would be silly to suggest that North Korean news output is as informative as in the West; or indeed, as anywhere else on the planet. I’ve come across North Korea’s news while travelling on a number of occasions. The items are mundane to the extreme: A politician visiting a school, the findings from a national survey that makes the government look good, a government official opening a building. There is never a reporter live from the scene. There aren’t even sound-recordings attached to the video images; only the narrative voiceover of the in-studio newscaster. Let me make it clear: When it comes to comparison with North Korea news, we all enjoy better; it’s a fact. That said, I have learnt three unbreakable truths regarding news throughout my extensive global travels.
- Everyone trusts the overall news coverage from their country.
- Everyone mocks people from other nations for doing the same.
- No-one is justified in doing either.
As I write this, we are processing the early findings of the Boston bombings in Massachusetts, USA. A worldwide gossip of journalists are speculating on the who?, the why? and the ‘What will it all mean for the future?’ At the same time, what the west is not doing is speculating on the early findings of the Iraq bombings that took place the day before, and are far worse in their carnage. The example is, perhaps, an understandable reaction for western news media. After all, journalists are human – no other species would have such a profession – and it is human to care more about those we know and associate ourselves with than those we don’t. This news coverage, although not excusable, is understandably biased. However, news is biased in far more manipulative and inexcusable ways than that cited above.
I have been studying news reporting for decades. I can give you mountain of examples of biased reporting, far more insidious than the one above; but there is far greater impact if you do it, yourself.
Think about this:
- When was the last time you heard a good-news story about Twitter and Facebook in the mainstream media?
- Why are word like ‘cyber-bullying’ common in our modern language?
- When did western media last report good news about Iran? The nation with the second highest number of sex change operations; carried out on their equivalent of free healthcare.
- What about Russia? Can there really be nothing more interesting in the country than Pussycat Dolls and Oil billionaires?
- Mexico: seen by western media as a certainty for stories about drugs and gangland killing is actually one of the richest countries in the world, has a surplus economy and has more free trade agreements than any other.
- Why is Australian news so obsessed with immigration? In the US and UK, its terrorism and paedophilia.
- When did the UK last report positive news about the European Union?
- How many of us know there is a hungry strike by Guantanamo Bay inmates? It’s been going on for weeks, incidentally.
- How many Brits know UN investigation into the UK’s involvement in US-led torture? Not many, I’m guessing, since the BBC didn’t say a single word about it.
Finally, remember that example from North Korea of pointless surveys filling up their news space? Here is one from the UK. A mere one thousand people surveyed, but the positive findings were reported by the BBC at a time when the UK government is feared it might destroy the NHS. A timely piece of propaganda?
So the next time someone laughs at your nation’s news broadcasting, don’t laugh back. The state of the news is no laughing-matter.