The view from outside: reading international newspapers

It is natural to consume media products from the country we live in. For example, in the United States, sources such as CNN, Fox News, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, serve as the main sources of news about global affairs. Google News, a popular and powerful news aggregator, by default will present top results for the “World” section from only a collection of the most popular news outlets from the country of the detected IP address (as an exercise, visit Google News, click on “World” in the left panel, and see for yourself).

It is not surprising that US news outlets present world events (not just analysis, but also reporting) from a largely American perspective (a term which happens to have a name: Americentrism). But in the age of the internet, there is no excuse to read about world news from a restricted set of US-based media houses. It is unfortunate that reading, let alone being able to name, English newspapers from around the world is quite uncommon. The outcome is a blind-spot to the perspectives and sentiments of cultures and communities we read and make judgments about.

Reading a news piece from an international newspaper often evokes one of the two responses for me:

  • An appreciation of the neutrality of the presentation of world events. As an example, US reporting on foreign nations regularly contains assessments about which regimes are democratic and friendly, versus which are autocratic and antagonistic. Furthrmore, most international news will tie the event to US foreign policy. Both these patterns are less pronounced at non-US news desks, especially those which are not global players, and therefore have less direct relationship to a particular foreign event.

  • A surprise by how propagandist their depiction of world events can appear. (One common pattern to look out for is observing how, and in reference to which groups, a news source will use the word “terrorist” versus “rebel” or “resistance”.) We are accustomed to reading about world events from a fixed perspective, that foreign ones often come across strangely worded and manipulative. It takes effort to recognize that the issue goes both ways, and US media is likely subject to the same pitfalls when evaluated from outside.

Below are a collection of some English, international media sources which I enjoy reading during the early morning rounds. These have helped me appreciate the variety of perspectives and interpretations of supposed “factual news reports”, which are not apparent from reading one source alone:

There are obviously thousands of news sources (and the above list misses African or Latin American spheres, parts of the world I remain woefully uniformed about), but even a small sample from outside our bubble can broaden one-dimensional views of the greater world outside.

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