While many showed outrage about the Paris attack, many others showed outrage at the selective display of outrage. The question that many asked was why people showed anger only for Paris and not for Beirut. I asked the same in my Facebook post. And I was lucky that a few people cared to share their answers/reasons with me. Of all the reasons, the one reason that was common was that there was extensive media coverage about Paris attacks which is why they knew about it, whereas there wasn’t much coverage around Beirut, Baghdad and Ankara. Which is completely true. How are you supposed to empathize with something if you aren’t even aware of it? In my case, as I’ve mentioned in the Facebook post as well as my previous blog post, I’ve been sincerely following the West Asian situation for a few months now, hence I’ve been aware of all the bombings before Paris. And that is solely because I follow Al Jazeera.
Make no mistake that media coverage is a detrimental factor in this war and your understanding of it. For me, it was the Paris attack that exposed the selectiveness of the media. Here’s why –
The morning of the Paris attack (it was morning in India) when I switched on the TV, I immediately tuned into Al Jazeera. As expected, Al Jazeera was covering the Paris attacks. After 10 mins or so I switched channels to see if there was anything different in the coverage by other channels. EVERY single news channel, including Indian news channels, were covering the Paris attacks. Indian news channels (in English) had plugged into a French news channel and kept playing that for the 2 hours that I watched the news. International news channels (which I like to call ‘First World News Channels’) had started featuring analysts and experts’ opinions w.r.t Paris attacks.
But here’s where I found the difference. When I tuned into Al Jazeera again, they were showing news about the Kurdish victory in Sinjar. And after that, the spotlight was on the Israel-Palestine issue. In half an hour Al Jazeera covered three news events. Whereas in two hours First World News Channels + Indian news channels covered only Paris attacks. So obviously, how would you even know if there was another middle-eastern country which was under attack? And this isn’t an exception to the rule; it is the rule.
Clearly, Al Jazeera is my favorite news channel and my #1 recommendation for you too. These are the reasons why I recommend Al Jazeera:
- It has a balanced news coverage. It covers all the big events across the world. It covered even the Bihar elections. If you follow Al Jazeera regularly, you’ll at least be aware of what happened where.
- I feel that Al Jazeera’s reporting is very neutral and fact based. They deliver news and not their opinion of it, which is what media should be doing (And definitely unlike our Indian media.) I bet there will be disagreements on this point, but I genuinely think that it is the most neutral coverage of news.
- When it comes to reporting numbers (Ex: Death toll from an attack), they’ll mention that the official numbers are unknown, or this is what the authorities said an hours ago, and other similar disclaimers. If they don’t have numbers, they admit that they don’t have it right now and that will come back with it as soon as they get confirmation.
- Al Jazeera has interesting shows. The Stream is one that I watch regularly. What I like about their shows like The Stream, which is a show based on opinions, is that the anchors are there only to moderate the conversation and not dominate it (I’m looking at you Arnab Goswami.) And they pick up interesting topics for this. Al Jazeera’s shows are not about forcing the channel’s or the anchor’s opinion on the panellists, which is a refreshing change if you’re an Indian (You know what I mean!)
- They have the best social media integration. In fact, the show The Stream is primarily based on social media conversations. I doubt if any other channel does social media the way Al Jazeera does, but I could be wrong on this one.
- I love the diversity of their Journalists. I have seen journalists from almost all the major ethnicities from around the world on Al Jazeera.
- Finally, I know this is insignificant, but I LOVE their graphics and newsroom. The desk that they sit behind has the best design on the front of it. And of course, I love their logo.
The desk in Al Jazeera’s newsroom
Other than Al Jazeera, I listen to BBC radio online. But I listen to it during the start of my work day which means it’s night time in UK, hence the news coverage is very light. I proactively refrain from watching any American news channel. Other than actual news channels, I get news updates on Twitter. On Twitter I follow most of the Indian news media and some international news media. I have a Twitter list called News for this.
So, if you’re looking for a media channel to follow to get well-balanced news, I’d recommend Al Jazeera. You can follow Al Jazeera’s social media channels from their social page on their website. But remember to not be dependent on only one source for building knowledge.
Before you leave this page, I’d love to know which news channel(s) you follow. Maybe there’s a channel that’s better but I’m not aware of. Add a channel if it isn’t mentioned in the options.