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Stereotyping Of Non Western Cultures In British News Media Essay

In the contemporary world, it is generally believed that journalists have become noteworthy occupations. They could make news spread all over the world so that people can be beneficial. In addition, they write down comments on politics, sports and entertainment to the public. In fact, news even can change the way of our daily lives. Nowadays news is not only information but also a product. That is to say news has a regular process at present. At the same time, in many western people’s eyes, one word or one phrase can summarize their understanding of non-western countries. For instance, Iraq is “war”, China is “huge crowds of people”, and Indonesia is “tsunami”. However, these prejudiced thoughts are not complete and accurate. More and more Non-western countries are being marginalized by media. Bias towards non-western cultures has arisen and non-western countries have been marginalized. This essay will elaborate on why stereotyping appears and how it leads to the marginalization of non-western countries through news production process in British news media.

2. What is journalism and ‘news’ in western countries?

According to Sissons(2006), Journalism is which telling real-life stories around us and elaborating the world beyond a personal direct experience. He points out that journalists have their responsibility to write the truth of what is happening to the public. Therefore, journalists are one of the most honored professions and they should always write the truth of what is happening in the world. Satchwell (2004) who became the Society of Editors in 1999 argues journalists’ job is to break through the international barriers and explain international relationship and what happened in others countries to audience.

The word “news” is associated with ‘reality’, ‘significance’, and ‘events’. As Lippmann points out news and truth are definitely not the same (cited by Negrine, 1994).That means sometimes news may not be the truth, sometimes truth may not be news. A US journalist once said ‘News may be true, but it is not truth and reporters and seldom see it the same away.’(cited by Allan,1999:48). News is just something new and it depicts an event. However, Gans (1979) asserts that news not only has its reality judgments but also contains value. Amount of things can be occurred in the different place in every minute. So journalists must consider what information should give to audience. According to Temple (1996), journalists must choose the news from a great deal of events because they always have more useful information than they can utilize. Before publishing news, newsroom must cherry pick the more newsworthy piece, which section it fall in , how much space it will take, and what the focal point is. News is just a product with no objective standards. News has fixed on process and it gradually becomes a product so that news media can also be called news factory.

According to Golding and Elliott (1979), news has a fixed process rather than the random reactions of random events, it has the planning, collection, selection and production. The first stage is planning, journalists have to consider which events can be concerned, which sources can be reliable and gathered, who can be interviewed. Then they choose the events which should be presented to the audience, they can start to gathering and select news. Last but not least, they give the public news production. Therefore, Negrine (1994) who is a director of department of journalism studies in University of Sheffield illustrates when the viewers get the newspaper which is the result of large work.

Stereotyping of non-western cultures in news.

There are many definitions of stereotyping. ‘Stereotyping is a prevalent way of thinking which relies on the use of relatively fixed mental images and value-laden beliefs to provide shortcuts and easy certainty in the way that people relate to each other in specific situations’(Barnes). Non-western countries refer to all African countries, much of Asia, and a number of small island nations in the Pacific. Stereotyping is always associated with ‘prejudice’ and ‘bias’. Usually, ‘prejudice’ and ‘bias’ are negative thoughts to some groups. According to Van Dijk (1991), the media in white-dominate countries such as British participate in the reproduction of racism and also showed that dominant media have always stereotypes and bias about other minority groups.

British and other western countries’ news about non-western cultures is full of bias. Westerners have negative attitude to non-western cultures. Readers, as a result, view third world countries as places which are imbued with social problems, instabilities, diseases and violence. Van Ginnken (1998) gives some examples, such as ‘Chinese’ are always associated with the words ‘funny’, ‘weird’. It is somewhat different for negative labels and derogatory expressions were utilized in western media, like the word ‘nigger’ and ‘black’. And he (1998) also gives ‘mind map’ to utterance these derogatory illustrations such as ‘desert – sand – Africa - poor’. This is a typically stereotype which contains bias, unbalance, unfairness and derogatory senses. Though Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world, it does not mean the whole continent is poor. South Africa is also in Africa and it is a developed country. However, Western News media use the same words depicting all countries in Africa. According to Ablex (1982), the accommodation of homelessness is related to Third World are always given to people. They did not choose ‘good news’ of the non-western countries to their viewers because it has no ‘news value’ for westerners. This diagram below shows that how important of news value in the process of making news (Sonwalkar: 265).

News coverage


News values

In the process of making news, Allen(1999) points out, journalists, editors and all the people are related in the process of making news, doing the task of making sense of ‘news value’. In different countries, different religion, different culture, there is different definition of ‘news value’. ‘Doubtless there is no single ,universal criterion by which measure there unbalances and disparities, since news values differ from one country to another and from culture to culture’( Calabrese, 2004:36). For example, in China, meaningful news always ‘good news’, while ‘bad news’ is more significant in western countries such as America and Britain. According to Watts (2007), even Chinese government admits their news are all ‘good news’ .However, the good news for people is ‘bad news’ in western counties. Allan (1999) argues ‘good news’ are always the same such as ‘celebrated media theorist Marshal Mcluhan once remarked, advertisements constitute the only 'good news' in the newspaper.’(Allen, 1999:63).

For western journalists, ‘no matter what one does, one remains tied to one’s own (western news)perspective on the world, in many ways which are counter-intuitive, because everyday experience of the ordinary world seems so self-evident and unproblematic.’ (Van Ginneken, 1998:2). That means in different countries journalists have different angles to choose news resources and to make a decision on how to interpret them. Which event can be a news is also based on different ‘news value’. Davis (2008) argues some critics and journalists are outsiders who get news from others without consideration. Journalists decide what sources they will utilize and whom they will interview. Journalists should have correct judgment for news can even shape people’s world views.

Western news makers give viewers the negative labels of non-western countries. Gans (1979) argues not strictly objectivity comply with foreign news than domestic news which means sometimes the information which give to audiences containing prejudice. News making has already been a fixed process: One or two professional news agencies set down rules and targets to make news, other news organization always copy. Moreover, when some big news agencies make stereotyping news, some companies will do some researches on the news then give a critical report while the other cheap news companies will just follow suit. Moreover, different countries’ news agencies exchange the news instead of seeking news by self.

Journalists cannot get closer to remote sources because costs also effect news selection and framing. ‘The national news firms exist to make money and news organizations exist to produce a money-making product’ (Gans, 1979). So a target of newsroom is to make money. Gans (1979) asserts that there is a pressure from advertiser and enterprise, they must produce popular product so that can be given more economical support and get more benefit. So news must be attracting to the readers. News caters to readers and gives them safe ideas. Another reason is news factories want to cut their costs. In Davis (2008) opinion, journalists work on program in British media, parody low-cost, low-risk, human-interest product. The media organizations do not often allow their journalists to go to non-western counties to seek information and to interview local people because of high-cost. Therefore, ‘Selection decisions, news frames, news values associated with the commodification’(Manning, 2001:63). According to Temple (1996), news become a commodity rather than public service any more. They get information from ‘old sources’ or background. That lead to journalists cannot understand the real in the other counties and they will follow the general ideas and choose the idea come from official source result of losing the varieties and critique, then trends to identical surrounding consensus. T

Because journalists cannot seek the remote countries information they try to seek useful sources which close to them. This is the result of journalists have lack of knowledge of non-western countries so that cannot make the critical and objective judgment and lead to write stereotyped news to the audience. In Gans(1979) study, he showed to get the story and overcome the isolation in which the general function of choice must also be closer in geographical and social news, which means journalists must get closer to sources that will help journalists get correct and critical perspective on non-western countries and the world; albeit sometimes they are not sure which information is true.

There is another reason why most stories have two sides. However, sometimes western news only gives ‘one side’ of the story to the public. For instance, ‘contemporary news reporting in Africa is variably of the ‘fire fighting’ tendency’ (Frank, 2005:132). They did not report the positive side in these non-western cultures. Therefore, westerners need ‘one side’ news because different news value, different way to interpret information and commerce problems. For example, G.V. Kromah (2002) said, in Atlanta, Africa content is consisted by fifty four countries and amount of language, but westerners always think Africa is one country and one language. This shows western news media reporting on Africa lack of professional. It is ‘proved to be stories which were angled around the interests of dominant western countries’ (Davies, 2008). And another reason is come from BBC History Seminar (2004), it is said that a journalist who cannot sell anything positive about Africa although they have a large of positive stories instead of disaster. But he cannot make these stories international. Readers do not accept and do not concern these issues.

Timelines is one of elements for news-making so the last reason is limitation of time, Allen (1998) claims news is about recently events which happened the previously 24 hours. According to Schlesinger (1978), BBC journalists are the victimized by time. According to Horvat (2001), when the newsroom face so much information about remote area, they must machinery quickly decide which news can be printed .Newsroom has to make time for important point. There is no doubt that news must be something new. If it is given to the public too late, it is of ‘news value’.

4. Marginalization of non-western countries in British media.

Eldering & Knorth (1998) point out that: "Marginalization refers to a process by which a person becomes distant from the conventional institutions in society’ (cited by Ndinda). ‘The absences from the foreign news agenda are staggering’ (Daya Kishan Thussu, pp53). The point will be analyzed as followed.

British news media give non-western countries less space. According to Temple (2008), people are in the pluralist environment, there are few limit events can become news, based on different religion such as Elitist perspective and Marxist perspective. According to Frank (2005), if six thousand people died of disease in Europe (the same situation happen each day in Africa), the newsroom will not only report the catastrophe, but also the reasons. But if an African vessel sank into Atlantic, nobody would know it in Europe. Western news media believe it is hard to report what happened in such a far place, even though the death toll could be tremendous. Moreover, western news almost never gives headlines to non-western countries. They are always ignored by audience. Gans (1979) give an example of disasters like flood and earthquake which could kill thousands of people in Africa and Asia. However, American and British news media pay less attention to the news, unless the disasters carry political impact or western countries are involved in helping the victims. Western countries regard non-western countries’ news less valuable.

Western countries such as America and British always think they are ‘first-class’ and non-western countries are always less respected. As a consequence, western countries pay less attention to non-western events and marginalize non-western countries. Gans (1979) found in western counties that most news events are about domestic, often related to political or economic issues and the news media always pays more attention on internal events. According to Van Ginneken (1998), western news only concerned the non-western issues below: activities influence on them, big change on policy or typical happenings like disasters and wars. According to Frank (2005), Tony Blair visited to Ethiopia for a meeting n the year of 2004. Western news media reported what Blair concerned, how much he cared about it and what he was going to do rather than the real information of the meeting. That indicates non-western countries resemble backdrop rather than the protagonist. There is also a recent example, British media reported much about Chile mine rescue because UK collaborates with Chile to rescue them (From BBC news online). According to Van Ginneken (1998), in America, news always focuses on national affairs, but sometimes it is international as well. This rule also applies to Britain. British news media, which contains newspaper, radio, TV program and Internet, focus on internal news frequently.

According to Davis (2008), journalists should give the audience what they want. It can improve readership and audience compliance. ‘In a BBC online survey in 2004 a staggering 73 percent of respondent has never heard about the Millennium Development goals. If no one interested then the drift in media coverage is not surprising’ (Franks, 2005:130). But The head of editorial policy, Whittle argues ‘our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable ore audience to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom’ (accessed by Oct 17th). Davis (2008) argues if readers do not want war coverage and foreign coverage or to see the poor, the newsroom does not need report the information. More specifically, news value does not exist without journalists and audience. As people in western countries believe they are the ‘first class’ and always have ethnocentrism. They do not care what is happening in other places. Gans (1979) asserted ‘journalists as audience representative, the only characteristic of the audience that journalists do keep in mind are its receptivity of the news’. As Frank (2005) mentions the coverage about non-western countries contains war, terrorism and disaster. It is no wonder that viewers have a gloomy image. When journalists choose and produce news, they will take the audience into account. Journalists have to judge what can attract and pander to readers. But it is very hard to strike a balance between readership and unbiased news. As westerners, they always consider themselves as superior so they overlook lower class people. According to Manning (2001), ‘the size or importance will be assessed by culturally specific criteria or the degree of ‘culture proximity’ ,in other words, it is assumed that viewers and listeners are likely to be more interested in domestic news rather than news that happens in more remote parts of the world.’ They do not want to know others’ voice. This leads both news media and audience to ignore ‘other’ countries.

Although, Davis (2008) deems that different news angles, uses of languages and expressions can emphasize different points. According to G.V. Kromah (2002) the Associated Press (AP) ,Reuters news agency, and the French News Agency, these three virtually decide what the audiences in their countries hear about the rest of the world. They make sustained international hot topical issues. It leads to the gradual marginalization of non-western countries. In British media, As Hartman and Husband (1981:274) points out, ‘there are elements in the British cultural tradition that are derogatory of non-white’. They describes Third World as ‘them’, on contrary, depicts ‘white world’ as ‘us’. This expression has already marginalized non-western countries. As a result, people know less and do not care what real happened in non-western countries. The diagram below shows how events or issues take center stage of news coverage. (Sonwalkar: 265)

5. Conclusion:

In conclusion, differences cultures, lead to different understanding of the ‘news value’ which in term leads to stereotyping. Therefore, different news values result in stereotyping of non-western cultures. In addition, cost reduction, audience preferences and national superiority potentially lead to the gradual marginalization of non-western countries. However, the socio-economic and technological development, people from all over the world are waiting for knowing the other voices from other places. And let them know the truth is the foremost responsibility of journalists. Therefore, newsroom should produce more unbiased news for the audience.

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