Monday, November 5, 2012

News Source

In journalism, a source is a person, publication, or other record or document that gives timely information. Media can use its own structure or other similar media as a source of information. It might use events, press releases, or press conferences as well. Some big media corporations assign reporters where conferences are usually held and information leak. Reporters also arrange interviews to pick up news stories. 

Some times reporters make news from scratch. As the BBC reporter Kim Ghattas ones, standing in the empty United Nations assembly hall, took points about the newly born 54th African state-South Sudan. The reporter showing and telling that all the seats in the hall are already occupied by nations, she asked where the representative of the new nation shall sit. She raised political and international diplomacy issues related to the referendum and its effect from several perspectives.

Sometimes documents and materials can be sources of news. Media may get hold of this information from investigation or researches by intellectuals; but it make further exploration to develop their news stories with visual and audio inputs. Some media, especially, the well organized and capacitated ones use content analysis and sample surveys as their primary sources of news. They also carry out discussion with laymen to experts on different issues.

At any rate what is undeniable is that there must be source for news to exist. Therefore, it is lucid that news is the product of its source. But this notion does not only indicate news is produced from a particular source. It also entails that the source manifests itself on the news. News actually reflects the interest and intention of the source. However, it is explicit in some cases and implied in most instances.

To illustrate this point, a simple example like a car accident which results in the death of a boy can be taken. Suppose no reporter was at the scene during the accident. The chance the reporter left with is to ask those who were at the scene then.

Whoever there during the accident will tell the fact that an accident had happened and a boy, for example, died. But the way each interviewee expresses the cause is likely to differ. If a civil engineer were asked, he might see a problem with the road construction and tell the problem accordingly. If the source is a leader of an opposition political party he /she might raise lawlessness in the country resulting in careless drivers. Other person may see a problem with the model of the car.

To take the example to a more advanced level, the case of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program can be taken so as to show news encloses the intension of its source. The fact that Iran is developing uranium is not denied even by Iran itself. But the difference is with its purpose. Iran claims the program is intended for peaceful purpose while the western governments blame Iran for acquiring nuclear weaponry that threatens “peace” of the world. This led to continual row between America and Iran thus getting prior attention of the media.

Media that source western government officials or documents report the disastrous effect of the nuclear plant relating it with terrorism. Press TV and few other media, sourcing Iranian officials, on the other hand report the positive effects of the plant linking it with power generation. Each media substantiate the argument keeping in mind its interest is intact. 

However, what is common to both media is that they do have their strategy to inculcate its agenda to the public. These news sources do not state clearly or completely what actually happened. Instead, they offer their opinion plus values within their reporting. This enables the media to channel millions of different opinions to the public and push them think the same way by preventing the audience from seeing the whole picture.

Here what makes these media different from ours is that they are smart enough to look as if they are fair and independent. While their presentation of all sides of an issue shows the system is open to entertain opposite ideas, they are not large enough to interfere excessively with their institutional values.

In light of the international flow of news, one can clearly see unfair and unequal flow of information among countries of the world. Some countries, especially those with big media companies enjoy vast coverage while Africa is marginalized. 

International relations and domestic affairs of specific African countries have been grotesquely overlooked under the pretext of information insufficiency. But the mainstream media recognize the continent is packed full of information when it comes to countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe where it have set in interest. Incontestably, Africa is an integral part of the international community and therefore failure to efficiently represent it in the 21st century international flow of information is quite a shame on the media.

When quality of news in international level is also seen, two deficiencies are apparent: the western media bias plus lack of development news. Africa, as a continent has been severely and unfairly criticized by the western media since the colonial era. Poverty, famine, drug trafficking, and gang warfare, etc… are the hallmarks of the continent as portrayed by the media. Thus Africa is the prey of the mainstream media, which have the lion’s share in the international news flow.

As stated in Manufacturing Consent, a book by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, media convergence has led to monopoly of news by few media conglomerates. When the authors conducted the research in U.S.A., despite the large number of media (around 25,000 media outlets), only twenty nine largest media systems account for about half of the circulation of information in the country.

Recent studies also show the domination of Associated Press, United Press International, Agence Frace Presse and Reuters over news flowing in and out of the third world. (Aggarwala, Narinder K. Media, News and People: a Third World View). As Mogweku put it candidly “their news values are western, their news interpretation is western and their news structure is western.”

News from these sources mirrors the ideology and preference of the western media and western politics at large. They cultivate their ideology in the mind of others to keep on the hegemony of neo-liberalism. Moreover, readiness is not seen on the part of the third world media and governments to counter the exclusively western perspective in the international course of news.

Ethiopia, as one of the third world countries, plays insignificant role in the international flow of news. Of course, the country takes in media products from different international news sources. Also the attempt in selection and framing of international news stories according to the interest of the country is considerable. However, as compared to the potential the country has, it can play a key role in providing news to the international community.

Addis Ababa is the seat of African Union. Around thirty international organizations including Economic Commission for Africa and many more regional offices dwell here. There are also ninety seven embassies in the country. The Ethiopian Air Line, among the top airlines in the world, resides in Addis Ababa. The fact that the country begin to host international conferences successfully together with its world heritage tourist sites is a huge potential for international news supply. These and other unsung achievements could be the source of international news stories if well done.
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