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Beyond The Mainstream Media: Understanding The Food Crisis

May 16th, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

When I traveled around the world, one of the most notable differences was the character and content of television news. The primary distinction seems to be a matter of depth…meaning the news in other regions isn’t just presented in short sound bites. Granted, we have programs in the U.S. that provide detailed reports on topics of interest, however, they are in short supply when compared to many other countries and they aren’t typically included as part and parcel of the traditional news cycle.

The following segment, from al Jazeera, on the growing global food crisis is an example of the kind of reporting we see less of in the United States. The report is a lengthy discussion intended to provide some understanding of the factors that are contributing to the food crisis as well as to explore the changes or solutions that might help alleviate it.

It is also notable in the format in which it is presented. When watching U.S. news…primarily on cable networks…the format usually includes participants with two diametrically opposing views offering the talking points of their political constituents and attempting to talk over each other…in segments that might last at most ten minutes…and frequently far shorter.

To understand the distinction, I would offer that the U.S. equivalent wouldn’t be found in television broadcasting - rather it is in fact National Public Radio (NPR). If you’ve listened to NPR, they frequently explore topics that are receiving sparse coverage on the television networks. One can also find more in-depth stories on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) though many of these programs follow the network format that includes a point - counterpoint approach.

Granted, my observations are more anecdotal than scientific but I suspect there is merit none the less. It appears that we Americans have become content with receiving our news in abbreviated form…delivered by partisans sharing talking points that have first been vetted by focus groups. I think it would make more sense if the American voter functioned like the focus group…taking the time to explore the ins and outs of a topic before making any conclusions while skipping the partisan spoon feeding we’ve come to accept. Don’t hold your breath on that happening any time soon.

If you’ll take the time to watch the following report, I suspect you may concur with my speculation. Regardless, you will certainly learn that the food crisis is far more complex than can be explained in thirty seconds. It might also demonstrate that our efforts to reduce every issue to a two-sided topic fully ignores that our world needs to be understood as a complicated multi-dimensional construct whereby every action has the potential for unintended consequences. Finally, it might begin to explain why much of the rest of the world has begun to suspect that Americans are increasingly tone deaf.

Understanding The Food Crisis - Part One

Understanding The Food Crisis - Part Two

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

  1. 2 Responses to “Beyond The Mainstream Media: Understanding The Food Crisis”

  2. By rube cretin on May 17, 2008 | Reply

    Daniel,
    excellent post and observations. I agree with the advantages of this format and the lack of argument among the participants. However, the program did not address the real problem which is the 6.7 billion people on the earth which greatly exceeds the sustainable carrying capacity by many magnitudes. A cruel little quote from one of the first to observe and write on the problem. Forgive.

    “A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents on whom he has a just demand, and if the society do not want his labour, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and, in fact, has no business to be where he is. At nature’s mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone, and will quickly execute her own orders, if he does not work upon the compassion of some of her guests. If these guests get up and make room for him, other intruders immediately appear demanding the same favour. The report of a provision for all that come, fills the hall with numerous claimants. The order and harmony of the feast is disturbed, the plenty that before reigned is changed into scarcity; and the happiness of the guests is destroyed by the spectacle of misery and dependence in every part of the hall, and by the clamorous importunity of those, who are justly enraged at not finding the provision which they had been taught to expect. The guests learn too late their error, in counter-acting those strict orders to all intruders, issued by the great mistress of the feast, who, wishing that all guests should have plenty, and knowing she could not provide for unlimited numbers, humanely refused to admit fresh comers when her table was already full.” Malthus

  3. By nodsavid on May 17, 2008 | Reply

    Hope where have you gone? Is all lost? Is there no future? The answer to all these questions is bundled in the answer of Rube. Too many folks at the table and the commodities strewned across the table cannot adequately meet the new comers. Our choices, absent intervention of technological break throughs not yet known, are bleak. Fortunately, this is a voluntary situation and some will volunteer to retire from the table, others will opt not to respond to the invitation, and for others the invitation will never issue. But the crowd of the uninvited is growing and soon some may begin to pound on the door. Might there be a draft of folks to solve the problem at that point?

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