The media is an important institution in the modern day society because of its responsibility to the opinion; the responsibility to inform, educate and help in the creation of social awareness that can propel individuals towards action for a specific good. Since the birth of media and its role and influence in modern life, there were countless instances wherein the people relied on the role of the media for information and opinion formation, leading to the formation of socially held belief and conviction, and at times proactive action towards socially relevant issues. Media is still growing, form-wise, because technology makes it possible. But as the types of media expands and diversify, socially important issues remain present amidst day to day life growing and expanding and becoming more complex.
This triggers critical thinking to ask if the social issues are still being delivered to the consciousness of the people through the help of the media, or if the politics and economics of the media make media selective of the issues that it present to the people. People are now asking which among the current forms of media is still true to the nature and essence of the institution; discerning which between the traditional media or the new Internet media is pushing the limits of its capability to bring to the people what the people should know and not what the media wanted the people to know; obscuring those which the media believes people can live without; and in the process, denying the people the chance to opt for conviction and stand on this issue, one of which is the issue on world food crisis and the role media is playing in how this issue is brought (or not) to the consciousness of the people.
Because of that, the question that this paper will put forward becomes an important query especially among those who are critical about the sense of responsibility by the media to the people and the extent by which both traditional and new media tries to accomplish this responsibility or if they fail miserably in the duty that the society expects from it. It is important to ask the question how was the traditional media, particularly print media, differed with the Internet media in its coverage of the current world food crisis and, concurrently, how both media types informed the people of global warming an integral part of such social phenomenon.
As one of the leading countries with the most influential media institutions, the rest of the world is constantly affected by how America and its media approach and talks about social issues. Because of this, critics are worried when there are those who point out that the US is far from serious and concerned about the world food crisis, global warming, how they are related and how they are set to affect the entire world. If the institutions that affect the ebb and flow of American way of life are in general not concerned, will the US media be far behind and look in a different direction? “There is mounting scientific consensus that human-induced world climate changes will bring, sooner or later, massive increases in drought and desertification, an unleashing of more powerful storms, a rise in sea levels, and a crisis in food production. What this might mean for the world’s population, and what institutional mechanisms and social policies might be advanced to confront the situation, has been of practically no concern to American elites preoccupied with growth, profitability, and market shares (Boggs, 2000, p. 62).” This elites, including business entities and other corporate entities that are closely operating with traditional media, where most to have large investments on advertising in the hope that the consistent market position of what they are selling is helped greatly by the media mileage lifted from traditional media advertising.
The elites who are involved in the biofuel industry which according to the website Global Issues are belaying the perceived impact of global warming to the worsening of the world food crisis, a claim countered by World Bank and slapped United States’ lying face (Chakrabortty, 2008) – may heavily influence the editorializing of the news in the print media. But does the same follow in Internet? For one, the Internet provides more space and more avenue for more individuals to be vocally critical about today’s issues, unlike the constraints in the freedom of speech from the traditional forms of media (Global Issues is an example). Secondly, there are very little advertisers to please with content and third Internet news politics is a culture sans the horns, tails, pitchfork and pitfalls present in traditional media politics. With bigger space, quicker news delivery and less restraints compared to that of traditional media, the Internet media has a freer hand in the delivery of news, and it seems that people are noticing this trend in news delivery, particularly about the recent world food crisis.
Another website, Just Another Cover-up (justanothercoverup.com), ran a short article that served as an intro for a set of food crisis related articles from TIME Magazine and Bloomberg, among others. The article noted how this particular news was not picked up by the traditional media. The writer was obviously wondering why the American press in particular was not running front page story about the looming famine after the Bloomberg report, especially since this is a very serious social and global problem (Just Another Cover-up, 2008). This scenario is yet again another example of how the traditional media seemed to be marginalizing the news reporting about the current world food crisis, in effect highlighting the effort of the Internet media to carry on the vigilance in this particular social crisis. Traditional media seemed to have abandoned its role already so that it can attend to other different news that it deemed more news worthy than the world food crisis. Or are they just waiting for this crisis to be sensationalized enough with more hype? It is a solid material for high readership/viewership that, in the process of reporting, gives improved sales and higher advertising and media mileage value for their specific media outfits.
If there will be solid evidences backed by more in-depth research about the growing tendency of traditional media to marginalize the world food crisis, it will be not something new at all, since the US traditional media had always had the notoriety for ignoring issues such as this. Phillips (2000) wrote about how the US media was far from being the advocate of truth but instead a propagandist serving the interest of the few when it tackled the Korean food crisis at the turn of the century. “The US media used the Korean famine for political propaganda and has failed to cover the huge disaster from a humanitarian perspective…A humanitarian food crisis of staggering proportions has been developing in North Korea, yet nowhere has there been an outcry (Phillips, 2000, p. 64).”
Another possible precedent was the Somalia humanitarian crisis, which, experts believed, barely made a TV appearance after news hardly used this angle at all. “Similar to the print media, CBS evening broadcasts paid a low level of attention to Somalia. For the 21 days analysed, CBS ran only five news segments on Somalia. None of these were at the top of the news bulletin and only one was run within the first ten minutes of the news starting. The total airtime devoted to Somalia was a mere 3 minutes and 30 seconds. This equated to just 10 seconds of airtime per day to Somalia. In terms of content, all of these reports concerned the famine and/or refugees from Somalia (Robinson, 2002, p. 53).”
Indeed, the growing notion that the traditional media is becoming more and more selective in the news that it presents to the people forces the people to use the Internet as the new source of news. With the advantage of timeliness and space, the Internet proves to be the ideal new medium for those who are serious in bringing the news to the people. “In anticipation of the sparse media coverage that would be given to the WTO protests, over 500 media activists, videographers, journalists and computer scientists from around the world worked with the IMC to contribute to the limited media coverage of the events in the mainstream news. Video footage acquired from web-cams, video cameras, and satellite uplinks were streamed onto the Internet and supplied to a global audience via the World Wide Web (Frechette, 2002, p. 101).” If the coverage of the global food crisis, which is still ongoing and may still get worse, is close to zero coming from traditional media, it is certain that groups will resort to Internet news delivery instead, to be able to get their message across.
If traditional media, like newspapers, never recover from this particular situation, it will be a waste for newspapers for the attitude that they have helped instilled among the readers that makes it easy for information dissemination to take place. It is a difficult situation for Internet news since experts believe that the attitude of reading sections where social issues are found are still found higher among followers of traditional media compared to that of the Internet media. “Researchers found that online readers appeared to read fewer national, international and political news stories than readers of the print version (Li, Affe, 2005, p. 284).”
This is not to say that traditional media has totally ignored the world food crisis. On the contrary, these institutions are still reporting about it. But the manner by which they handle and deliver the news about this particular social problem is not as high impact as expected from an institution that is relied upon to wake up the people’s consciousness and push them to action. That is why some are praising the efforts of Internet news which, even without the muscle of traditional media, still finds more than sufficient enough rooms in the information highway for the global food crisis to be discussed, either through the posting of the online version of the news or through the creation and presence of discussion areas that allow individuals to interact and share thoughts about this particular social problem (including the online versions of newspapers as well as social issue discussion websites like SocialIssues.com).
It is easier to read about the current global food crisis in the website, while it is very difficult to find at least one article everyday about the aspects of global food crisis from the daily broadsheets. But the ideal resolution to this brewing conflict is not the control of just either the traditional media or the Internet media. But rather, the continued service of both to inform the people as best as they could without politics and editorializing. “There are lessons to be learned from every crisis…In particular, the tragedy has demonstrated the enormous influence of the media, especially the television. It has also been a defining moment for the Internet in the way it has been used by governments, aid agencies and individuals to inform people, enlist their help, raise funds to help the victims (Doeg, 2005, p. 230).”
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Chakrabortty, A. (July 4 2008). Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis [Internet],
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Doeg, C. (July 2005). Crisis Management in the Food and Drinks Industry: A Practical Approach. Springer-Verlag New York, LLC.
Frechette, J. D. (July 2002). Developing Media Literacy in Cyberspace: Pedagogy and Critical Learning for the Twenty-First-Century Classroom. Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated.
Global Issues (2008). Global Food Crisis [Internet], Available from: http://www.globalissues.org/article/758/global-food-crisis-2008#Richcountrieswronglyplaydownimpactofbiofuels [Accessed 18 September 2008].
Just Another Cover-Up (March 5, 2008). Is Time Magazine Warning us Of A Looming Food Crisis? [Internet], Available from: http://justanothercoverup.com/?p=408 [Accessed 18 September 2008].
Li, X. and Affe, R. B. (December 2005). Internet Newspapers The Making of a Mainstream Medium. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Phillips, P. (April 2000). Censored 2000: The News That Didn’t Make the News. Seven Stories Press.
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