Although, with the Internet, it’s easy to ignore local media when travelling, we tried to follow the local news on television when possible during our travels. To be honest, I was primarily locked into English language outlets because of my language limitations (and, to a lesser extent, Spanish ones). So I can’t say I watched the same news that the locals watched.
But the English language news isn’t the same that we get in North America. And, unlike Hong Kong, we didn’t receive re-transmissions of the American ABC, CBS, and NBC network newscasts. CNN international was available in nearly every hotel we visited, BBC World Service in most, and a English language European network. In addition, the French pubcaster has a 24-hour English language newscast.
In watching these different outlets, I observed the following:
· The number of announcers and reporters with North American accents was surprisingly high, even on European-based channels. I expected more British accents.
· The networks emphasize a different mix of international stories and give them different weights. For example, the story of falsified passports used by the alleged accomplices in a Dubai murder was a top story on most of the European stations while it seemed to be a buried story in the American press (based on coverage in the New York Times and the Globe and Mail at the same time).
· Similarly, a story about the arrest of several Turkish generals was a top story in Europe and did not seem to receive as much coverage in the North American press. (That these arrests happened within a week or so of our visit to Turkey admittedly heightened our sensitivity to this issue.)
· European weather disasters were covered widely, as were American weather disasters. What I find striking is that, while Europeans cover American weather disasters, American news outlets are not as quick to cover European weather disasters.
· European news outlets also cover news of Africa, a topic that’s all but forgotten by most North American press.
· CNN International is not the same CNN as the one we see in the US and Canada. Rather than obsessing with small talk and one or two sensational stories that were first covered by Fox, CNN International generally reports a wide variety of real news from places other than the US. Although some of the annoying personality-based journalism that’s creeped into CNN in the past few years is on display on CNNi (as it’s called) (“Backstory” is an exceptionally annoying example), the network seems to cover a greater breadth of stories and countries.
In a way, the situation reminds me of the two solitudes view of Canada, a country where language divides end up altering world views, because we listen to different radio and music, watch different television series, read different books and, most significantly, hear different news.
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