STORY BY KATHERINE BAUER
America is the greatest country in the world. This view may pose problematic for the United States in the years to come.
“I would love it if we started thinking of ourselves as global citizens and trying to have a better understanding of each other,” electronic media associate professor David Wright said. “If we don’t take that to task, somehow this is going to all come tumbling down. Because you can’t create enough walls or tanks or planes to isolate yourself.”
Wright thinks Americans have an isolationistic view of the country, which means that the United States can be self- reliant. He acknowledges that there are citizens who want the United States to have a stronger international presence.
Many are focused on this country, its issues and its successes. The inability to think about global impacts may hinder the United States’ ability to be a leader and positive power in the years to come.
“I think as the world becomes more interconnected and what happens in one place has more impact on somewhere else, (this view) becomes more dangerous,” associate provost and political science professor Arthur Sanders said.
The media reinforces this American-centered view. Americans turn to the news when they want to know what is going on in other parts of the country and the world.
Because they are looking for the connection to the United States in global topics, the media does not focus on the impact an event has on other countries or the world.
Americans want to know why a story matters to them and to this country not what impact it has on others.
“I think the lens in television is not so much ‘America is the greatest place,’ but it is American- centric,” Sanders said. “They examine and look at problems through the lens of their impact on the United States. It doesn’t give you the full picture.”
While social media has opened new windows to getting the full picture, it does not help audiences to delve into topics.
Wright mentions how shorter attention spans and social media have changed what Americans want in their news.
“More and more people are doing social media,” Wright said, “and if you can’t give me a story in 148 words, the less I care about it. Something is lost in us that we don’t dig deeper into stories, and we don’t want that. I don’t blame the media for this necessarily.”
Viewers and readers hold a large degree of power in determining what the media will cover.
If Americans were to stop watching the mainstream news and find in depth sources with global perspective, more media outlets would turn to that kind of reporting. This would have to be a conscious effort.
“You tend to interpret things through the biases you have (such as those about America),” Sanders said. “You’re not even aware of them unless you systemically work to overcome them, and most people don’t care enough to do try to do that.”
Sanders and Wright both agree that the audience does not solely have the responsibility to gain a global perspective.
Journalists have the power to provide Americans the information they need to become more global citizens. Wright has already seen this in his journalism students who have graduated and are striving for more.
“I am getting more and more comments from my alumni who are 25 or 30, who are starting to dig deeper,” Wright said. “They’re hungry for more information.”
While there are steps now to enable Americans to have a more global and engaged view of the world, Sanders and Wright admitted that this process might need to begin early on in elementary school.
“We need to instill that appreciation that we’re interdependent,” Wright said. “We do impact each other that there are lots of different ways that we’re connected with each other.”