Al Jazeera English
stands out for
Mohamed Morsi, deposed Egyptian president, is at the center of the turmoil. Click image to enlarge.
THE STORY OF the escalating violence in Egypt has dominated world headlines for days on end.
A cross-sectional analysis of the media coverage of events, conducted at about 14:00 GMT (6 a.m. PDT) on Saturday morning – after a violent flare-up inside a Cairo mosque on Friday evening – reveals that Americans are far less informed than others elsewhere.
Unless they are motivated – and smart enough – to seek out the news for themselves, as I was, they are missing the big picture.
Snapshots of the leading news outlets in the U.S. and abroad that accompany this story bear witness to the shortcomings of American coverage.
The standout is Qatar-based Al Jazeera – which begins its American service on Wednesday.
THE AL JAZEERA ENGISH home page features five stories – one a photo essay – on the still-developing situation.
It also has a live stream of news coming from its correspondents in the country, and a live blog with the most recent update just eight minutes previously.
The home page of Al Jazeera English on Saturday morning. Click image to enlarge.
Compare that to The New York Times: two stories: the lead story is a news analysis, and the second lead a political column. For the breaking news, one must turn elsewhere. No pictures on the home screen.
The Washington Post has one story (no pictures).
At least the BBC has an image to accompany its lead story, breaking news from Egypt.
Digging a little deeper we find the fullest and most comprehensive coverage of this historic global event in the stories of Al Jazeera.
The lead story is Hundreds barricade themselves in Cairo Mosque
“Hundreds of supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi remain trapped in a mosque near Cairo’s Ramses Square after security forces escorted several of them out,” is the first paragraph. Note it is in the present tense; it is up-to-the-minute, still happening.
It continues: “The standoff at the Egyptian capital’s Fateh Mosque, which began late on Friday night, stretched into Saturday morning amid reports of offers of safe passage.”
Not only are reporters on the ground, Al Jazeera is getting eyewitness accounts in real time.
“Speaking to Al Jazeera by phone from inside the mosque, Omaima Halawa said there were about 700 people, including women and children, inside and that they feared leaving the mosque because “there were thugs outside with the security forces, and that … the security forces were working with the thugs.”
The New York Times web site on Saturday morning. Click image to enlarge.
Compare that with the top story in The New York Times, headlined Ties With Egypt Army Constrain Washington
Tom Shanker and Eric Schmitt report from Washington (not Cairo):
“Most nations, including many close allies of the United States, require up to a week’s notice before American warplanes are allowed to cross their territory. Not Egypt, which offers near-automatic approval for military overflights, to resupply the war effort in Afghanistan or to carry out counterterrorism operations in the Middle East, Southwest Asia or the Horn of Africa.”
The difference is stark. The New York Times, like most U.S. media (many of which are not even covering the situation on their front pages) focuses on how the events half a world away are being perceived in the U.S. capital.
Meanwhile, the second top story in Al Jazeera is an analysis of how the media in Egypt is shaping events there.
In Polarized media fuels conflict in Egypt we get a behind-the-scenes look at coverage from inside Egypt.
“In the weeks preceding the breakup of the Rabaa Adaweya sit-in, the square became host to a strange assortment of social ails, according to reports in Egypt’s increasingly polarized media,” the report begins.
The BBC web site on Saturday morning. Click image to enlarge.
“State news anchors reported an outbreak of scabies due to the camp’s lack of hygiene, the “sexual jihad,” a supposed fatwa that permits un-married, usually nonconsensual sex, to support waging jihad, and a suspicious “foreign drone” hovering over the protest.”
Back in the U.S., the Washington Post leads its front page with the breaking news. In Security forces attack Cairo mosque, trade gunfire with anti-government protesters Liz Sly and Abigail Hauslohner report from Cairo:
“Intense gunfire erupted in central Cairo on Saturday when security forces attempted to storm a mosque in which hundreds of anti- government protesters had taken refuge, a day after widespread bloodshed killed at least 173 people nationwide and seemed to accelerate Egypt’s slide into civil conflict.”
Three other Egypt stories (one with video) are teased (linked to) on the front page.
The other stories on the Al Jazeera home page are:
In pictures: Bloodbath in Egypt
Saudi king backs Egypt’s military
Egypt’s Christians face unprecedented attacks
Will the US penalize the Egyptian military?
Note: only the last item mentions the American angle – the effects on the U.S. and what action it might take.
The Washington Post home screen on Saturday morning. Click image to enlarge.
This is extremely relevant. The involvement of the United States in this event of global significance is of only minor importance to the players on the ground and in the region.
This is accurately reflected in global media, but Americans might think otherwise if all they see are U.S. outlets.
At least The New York Times has, as its second story, an analysis of the events.
In Attacks on Protesters in Cairo Were Calculated to Provoke, Some Say Rick Gladstone, who writes the “Political Memo” column, digs a little deeper behind the headlines.
“The ferocity of the attacks by security forces on Islamist protesters in Cairo this week appears to have been a deliberate calculation of the military-appointed government to provoke violence from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, a number of Arab and Western historians of Middle East politics said Friday.
ACROSS THE POND the BBC leads its home page with the breaking news in Egypt crisis: Gunfire heard at Cairo mosque siege“
Heavy gunfire has been heard at a mosque in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, following a stand-off with barricaded Muslim Brotherhood supporters,” the BBC reports.
“Dozens have refused to leave the al-Fateh mosque, fearing for their safety.
“TV pictures showed security forces firing at the minaret. State media said people were shooting from the mosque.”
There are two main lessons to be learned from this analysis, and I have been teaching them to my students for the past 12 years.
The first is that if one wants to know the full story, one cannot rely on just one media outlet. Each one carries only part of the story; for complete knowledge, one must refer to several sources.
Only this way can a news consumer ascertain what truly is occurring.
The second lesson is that, their protestations notwithstanding, every American news outlet (and many abroad, too) covers the news from a particular viewpoint.
U.S. media focus on how world events affect America. There is no truly global coverage, although The New York Times does the best job of all.
It is vitally important for Americans to know what is truly happening in the rest of the world. Unfortunately, we cannot get a clear picture from own newspapers and television reports.
We have to take the time and make the effort to seek out the information from foreign sources.
That is a great pity.
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