Is Cross Border Journalism Truly as Transparent as it seems?

By Manvee Bansal

Truth is Bland. Untruth is spicy. What’s your pick?

Is Cross Border Journalism Truly as Transparent as it seems?

Manvee Bansal

The news today makes us want to believe things that we know are not true. Whenever we see reports about different countries, are we not forced to believe stereotypes about them? Even if some of this news is accurate, it only sells when it is exaggerated. Exaggeration makes newscasts more marketable. In today’s busy contemporary world, plain and simple press releases itself do not have the power to stop and grab people’s attention. They stop only when the bulletin is dramatic. As much as we argue that the news should be correct and nothing else, we would not pay attention to the beats sans any extra drama. When such misconstrued stories are presented, they aggravate animosity between people of different nationalities. Technically, they have the potential to be used as a weapon of mass destruction.

“Countries like India should be aware that they are pawns to the US. They might be picked up when the US needs them, but then discarded like used tissue when they are not useful any more.” This is a part of a news article by the Global Times, a Chinese newspaper. Readers are brainwashed to believe that India is not a self- reliant country and the United States is a dictatorial nation. While in fact, this is manipulated. India is one of the largest growing economies in the world, with a projected growth of more than 11.5% in 2022. This feat is not possible if a country is ‘a pawn’ under another. Similarly, the United States is a strong nation in this world, commanding both soft and hard power hegemony, but not a dictator. This is just one of the many occurrences when headlines are altered to injure people’s perceptions.

A recent example of stereotype manipulation is South Korean TV network’s use of inappropriate symbols when introducing teams in the Tokyo Olympics 2020. MBC, the longest-running newscast in South Korea, received widespread criticism for their use of offensive and wanton images to represent countries. They displayed a pizza on the screen when the Italian contingent entered during the opening ceremony. Similarly, they represented Ukraine through Chernobyl and Haiti through an upheaval. The broadcaster even described Marshall Islands as ‘a nuclear test site for the United States’ and Syria as ‘a country with a decade long civil war.’

A 2018 study by MIT scholars, ‘The Spread of True and False News Online,’ found that false news traveled faster than true stories on Twitter. According to the research, false narrations are 70% more likely to be retweeted than accurate stories are. It also takes factual news about 6 times as long to reach 1,500 people compared to twisted news. Fake stories, rumours, and hate speech spread through social media have been connected to various incidents of mob attacks and lynching in different countries.

Today, social media has taken over as the new news source for Millennials and Gen Z. Like any other medium, social media has its benefits too. But in some cases, it acts as a devil disguised as an angel. News spreads like wildfire once posted on Twitter or Instagram. Much of this news is not even news; it is people’s biased opinions. The readers and the audience should be cognizant of the side effects of social media. In their sincere attempts to be ‘aware activists,’ people often callously retweet and share posts. Because of this irresponsible behavior, the Israel-Palestine conflict was aggravated. Misinformation flourished on social media networks in the form of viral posts. Both pro-Palestine and pro-Israel groups shared posts that favored their cause, worsening the situation.

Another aspect of social media campaigns is collecting donations. While many of these donations are used to benefit the needy, it is important to throw light on how people’s laborious money can be misused. A Canadian outfit, Poetic Justice Foundation, by Mo Dhaliwal started a ‘social campaign’ on social media to garner donations from all around the globe. The donors’ hard-earned money funded a violent riot at The Red Fort in New Delhi, India on January 26, 2021, a day celebrated as India’s Republic Day. This example is just one instance out of the many which are deliberately hidden from the common people.

Journalism is a powerful tool that can make the world a better place. What is required for journalists is to present the entire facts, because even a half truth is a lie. But, journalists are not completely at fault; to be in business, they need to sell what sells: spicy half-truths. The state of journalism in the contemporary world is such that polarised opinions are appreciated more than unbiased reporting. Willingly or unwillingly, journalists have to focus on news that sells instead of news that is true but bland. This is a choice that only readers can make. Truth is bland. Untruth is spicy. What’s your pick?

(The author is a Business Administration major at the Kenan Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA. She is also pursuing a Business Journalism certificate from UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media. She is interested in entrepreneurship, international business, and international relations.)

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