Here’s something you may not know: TIME actually publishes four different versions of its magazine, for the U.S., European, Asian, and South Pacific markets. Sometimes the covers are all the same. And sometimes they’re different.
Now, here’s an eye-opener: check out these TIME magazine covers for the October 24, 2011 issue.
The covers for Europe, Asia, and South Pacific all say the same thing: “WHY THE U.S. WILL NEVER SAVE AFGHANISTAN.” Hm…seems like an issue that might concern their U.S. market, right? But the American cover doesn’t even mention Afghanistan. It’s a story about “the return of the silent majority” in the U.S., along with headlines about Occupy Wall Street, and why George Clooney isn’t running for President. (I’m going to guess, because he’s an actor. Not that it stopped Ronald Reagan.)
The message is clear. The rest of the world can handle the truth about the international stage. Americans would prefer to stay wrapped in their bubble.
Now, this isn’t entirely fair to TIME. The very next issue has a story about China’s economy on the U.S. cover, while the rest of the world gets an inside look at the animated movie Tintin. And there’s no question that TIME does cover substantial, international issues, which is why I subscribe to it. But scrolling through their archive, you find enough cases like the one I highlighted above, that you start to get a little worried.
Are Americans blinded by a veil of ignorance about the rest of the world?
Go to ABCNews.com and look at the top headlines. I’ll do it right now. Here’s a sampling:
- America’s Top Ten Trashiest Spring Break Destinations
- Who’ll Win Oscar? Nominee Scorecard
- 7 Oscar-Worthy Animals
- Celine Dion’s Onstage ‘Oops’
- Nixon Clarifies Bisexuality Comments
- Beware of ‘Fake’ Shopping Sales
- Baltic Mystery Object: Millennium Falcon?
- The Car of the Future?
- WATCH: Super Bowl Ads Preview
Even slightly more substantial stories, like “Rick Santorum Says Daughter Is ‘Out of the Woods’” and “[Ron] Paul’s Nevada Strategy Called ‘Odd,’” focus more on the theatrics and maneuvering of the campaigns than on the real debate about which (if any) of these people are qualified to be the most powerful human being on the planet.
Americans talk a lot about the comparative quality of their various news sources, but the debate tends to focus on conservative vs. liberal bias, Fox News vs. NPR. I think we miss the bigger issue with our news: it is myopic, focusing us inward, shutting out all the rest of the world except for what happens to be most entertaining, most graphic, most shiny right now.
So what’s the solution?
Well, personally, I get my news from several websites. I read MSNBC.com, which does have some “fluff,” but overall does a pretty decent job of covering real stories, both inside and outside the U.S.
But more importantly, I also read two other, less “mainstream” news sites: Radio Liberty and Al Jazeera. The former is funded by the U.S. government, and the latter by the Qatari government, so you do have to watch for bias – but they’re different biases, and they seem to agree with each other pretty well in spite of all that. They talk about international issues, political unrest in countries you wouldn’t otherwise hear about, the state of democracy in the world, and what the world really thinks about American power.
Besides those, I also subscribe to TIME, which (as I said) has a lot of great content in spite of the cover thing. And I listen to NPR on the radio while I’m driving, whose program “All Things Considered” does a remarkable job of living up to its ambitious name.
Do you think American news has a problem? Where do you get your news?