The one-sided perspective of Western news outlets

How the media distorts our perception of the world

Emma Bailey, online editor-in-chief

As the Western world begins to control a significant part of the international conversation, individuals inherit a responsibility to work towards bridging the large privilege gap between developed and developing societies. In journalism, the majority of international news adopts the same angle: how was the western world affected? Reporters neglect to cover events from a multifaceted and cultural viewpoint and thus augment the privilege gap, defined by entire nations by a view limited only to effects on larger, more powerful countries.

In early August, an earthquake hit the island of Lombok off of Bali, Indonesia, killing almost 100 citizens and demolishing the homes of over 20,000. Yet, all reports on the matter seem to focus on the safety of tourists and the inconveniences that the evacuation of the “tourist island” caused instead of detailing the destruction that results from such intense physical and emotional damage. As an island economically based on agriculture, how will the Sasak people recover from the destruction of their fields and crops? How will the island’s majority Muslim population pray and gather communally without mosques? How will communities rebuild houses that have stood for several hundred years, being passed from generation to generation? We cannot bridge this developmental gap if we’re only focussed on tourism and western repercussions.

This singular viewpoint also neglects to make citizens of developed countries privy to the reasons why effects on the developed world are minimal. When we travel, Westerners primarily stay in areas designated for Westerners, with facilities nice enough to ensure comfort but rustic enough to allow the traveler to get a narrow grasp on the nature of the country. Meanwhile, locals continue to live in homes that, while relevant historically and culturally in design, do not offer anywhere near the same index of safety. Paired with a limited journalistic viewpoint, this perspective inhibits complete understanding for outsiders. The structural inequality seen in these living situations has devastated the developing world while leaving those with more privileged untouched.

Despite the minimal news coverage given to certain events, others are deemed completely unimportant and not reported on at all. We see the most news on developed or economically relevant countries, leaving out entire regions, like a great portion of Western and Southeast Asia.

Media outlets neglect to present this viewpoint on account of the inevitable discomfort it would elicit, yet its existence in the first place tells us enough: Westerners in power value their own comfort more than individual lives of those who have less power. We are horrifyingly misinformed about the developing world. Any current work on bridging this privilege gaps stands at a wall built by those that gain power from structural inequality.