In today’s interconnected world, news gets everywhere, fast. We are aware of the happenings in other countries almost as soon as they happen. Why is it that we still show so much more interest, when a Briton is involved?
By Tochi Onuora
|AirAsia QZ8501, the fateful plane that went
missing on December 28th. (Photo: Sky News)
Just a few weeks ago, I was logging out of my email, and stumbled across a headline on MSN: ‘Search For Missing Plane Suspended Overnight.’ Naturally, knowing nothing of the subject yet, I wandered over to click it, only for it to have switched to the next article on Kim Kardashian.
Having made my way on to the page, I saw a large picture of a plane (seen right) and some accessible text. The first words were, “A British businessman” – nothing about the airline, or the number of people on the plane. For that, you had to go look further down. More background information about the man and his daughter was revealed afterwards, only emphasising the tragedy of the event (may all 162 victims rest in peace). It was just after this that it hit me; why did the article only focus on the Briton? It took a few paragraphs to even focus on the event.
A key example of this is the Ebola crisis, of which in the past few months, there had been relatively little coverage despite the disease still ravaging Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone. Britain only seemed to be brought to its senses after the Band Aid album, and again, after nurse Pauline Cafferkey unfortunately caught the disease during her voluntary visit to Sierra Leone.
|A meme by the author. (Photos (clockwise):
Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian,
News is not the only place where western lives appear to be favoured. The 2012 film, The Impossible, looked at the heart-wrenching story of a tsunami, based on the true story of María Belón and her family. This family was Spanish but represented as British in the film. It was suitably wonderful, beautifully acted and directed, but what was striking was how at the end, this family was able to fly away from the devastation, to their rather functional western lives. The film essentially ignored the plight of the native inhabitants who experienced the most suffering and disruption to their livelihoods, placing importance on this single holidaying family instead. Few other films of equal popularity have explored the effects of this, on the poorer native residents.
In the name of balance however, is it really fair to criticise David Cameron for only mentioning Ebola loudly again after a Briton was diagnosed with it? He is the British Prime Minister, so of course, he would be expected to place more attention on an issue when it directly affects a citizen of his country. Similarly, with the news which chooses to focus on Britons, it makes perfect sense that British people would play a dominant part in the story. We are the ones who demand this, and the media simply tailors itself to appeal to its consumers, by showing a Briton who we can empathise with. We only read what we want to read. In the case of the AirAsia plane, perhaps mentioning a Briton with respect to the disaster, is the only way to get people to care about the event much at all?
But for now, maybe the people of West Africa need something other than a few pennies and headlines chucked their way, after the release of yet another song wondering whether or not they know what time of year it is.