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Read International: Advocating for globally-oriented news consumption

Amid one of the most historic and consequential elections in our nation’s history, it’s not difficult to justify intense political reporting. Politics regularly dominates media airwaves, for partisanship and polarization drive the most clicks, and sensationalism has taken a greater spotlight than in the recent past.

We’ve become accustomed to a media landscape filled by op-eds masquerading as broadcast news programs. The likes of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon, and other so called “pundits” or “commentators” set agendas of what the day’s most prominent events are — to differing degrees of credibility, seriousness, and accuracy.

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So many of our critiques of the media pertain to its bias, its evolution, and its survival in the future; we discuss the role of misinformation, the erosion of romanticized “objectivity,” and coverage of events within our own nation. We concentrate our opinions on how the American media covers America. 

Rarely, however, do we critically consider coverage of the world beyond our American blinders. Our appetites for news have largely been conditioned for conflict, not knowledge. We do not seek to become less ignorant through the process of learning new information. More often than not, we want to reinforce what we already know.

Reading more international news can help remedy this issue. Reading international news isn’t just about staying informed about transformative events within other countries that have global consequences. It’s not about a hypothetical moral duty one has as a global citizen to be aware of what transpires outside of a place you don’t call home.

We read the news in order to collect information that we can use to form our own opinions, to devise policy positions, and to update greater worldview or values. We should utilize the broader scope of global content, and the understanding of situations or phenomena in other regions of different cultural values and political environments, as data and evidence to test or strengthen our own worldviews. 

It shouldn’t take a social media campaign to make us aware of the Nigerians protesting against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad’s brutality, demanding reform, and being murdered in the streets for their activism. But reading about the protests might help us determine where solutions to injustice lie. 

The violent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh should feature on news organizations’ front pages and social media accounts. We would then study and discuss important updates, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with Armenian and Azeri foreign ministers, or the estimated 75,000 who have already fled the region due to violence, or the intensifying military conflict, more closely. Proper news coverage would yield more nuanced opinions on issues of substance, such as foreign policy, rather than having citizens preoccupied with the latest political bombshell.

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These stories are not hard to find. They’re just not as convenient to read as other stories. That’s why media outlets should hone a greater editorial focus on showcasing international news.

Any discussion of what’s “covered” in the media is complicated because that perception, like each of our individual perceptions of the media, is personalized and tailored — either due to how we self-select media outlets or what content social media algorithms feed us. 

Even so, it’s safe to assume that international stories aren’t displayed as much on the front pages because they don’t drive the traffic like the latest piece on Trump or Biden does. Further exacerbating the problem are newsrooms unable to sustain foreign correspondence.

More so than we realize, our stories are connected; the human experience transcends national conversations and borders. Just as history so often repeats itself, the struggles, clashes, and debates of the present parallel one another across the globe.

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Take the incredible story of Maria Ressa ’86, whose fight against dictator Rodrigo Duterte’s regime and defense of a free media serves as a cautionary tale. Ressa has exposed a future not fantastical for Americans to envision, a future where cynicism and censorship have reached such a fever point that power can nearly no longer be held to account.

Her brave work to protect Philippine democracy deserves to be known on a far greater scale, given that she’s risked her own liberty for the cause. Her story bears direct implications for the United States.

In a post-2020 world (especially if such a world excludes Trump as president), I hope international news becomes a much larger, more consistent narrative. International news, like all news, should function as a tool for intellectual self-growth. Don’t limit your own development or succumb to political tunnel-vision. Instead, read globally.

Arman Badrei is a junior from Houston, Texas. He can be reached at abadrei@princeton.edu.

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