Public broadcasting CEO explains why Americans are so ignorant of the world
Ever wonder why your fellow Americans seem to know so little about the rest of the world?
Alisa Miller, president and CEO of Public Radio international -- the other big public radio entity in the U.S. besides National Public Radio -- offers a theory in this talk, delivered earlier this year for the TED conference which takes the amount of press coverage given various subjects in 2007 and places them on a world map.
Miller correctly notes the distortion of the media's fascination with celebrities such as Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith, along with a fixation on Iraq and the Middle East, with relatively little attention paid to China, Russia and other important countries across the globe.
I do think she glosses over a major point, however. In her tally of regular news sources for Americans, she notes that the two most important outlets are local TV news and the local daily newspaper -- which suggests that the audience is most interested in news which directly affects their world.
Yes, covering Britney and Paris is cheaper. But the audience has also indicated it is most interested in news which seems most relevant to them; hyper local news about their immediate world or news which entertains and shocks them. As important as it is to know about Darfur and Tibet and the country of Georgia, I doubt many Americans feel directly affected by the events in those areas. (a recent Pew Center poll also notes that Americans' knowledge of current events hasn't changed much in 20 years)
Much as I like this talk, I think Miller glosses over the impact of news organizations focusing more intensely on the news the audience wants vs the news us professionals think they need.
Check it out for yourself and see what you think: