This week we talked at length about being cosmopolitan and that we were failures as a nation for not knowing other areas of the world as well as we know our own. In social psychology, there is a theory called the propinquity effect that essentially states that we are friends with people not because we like them best, but because we are in close to proximity to them. We like what we know, and we know things that we frequently encounter. Thus you are more likely to become friends with someone you run into every day in your apartment building than you are someone that you pass by on the street. Repetition makes the heart grow fonder, I suppose.
Let me relate this back to our discussion on globalization. I care more about what is happening in places I care about, and places I care about tend to me places that I go to frequently. So right now, I care a lot about news here in Washington, because I live here. I also care about news in Pittsburgh, because I spent the last four years there, and news in Boston because that is where my family is. If I read three news sources about three distinct places, we argued in class that because they are all on the East Coast that doesn’t make me global. And sure, it doesn’t. But my focus on places that I have attachments to does not reflect a failure in the media, or a failure of myself as a compassionate human being.
It is not the media’s fault that people don’t know what is going on in the rest of the world. It is incredibly easy to find international news. The New York Times has an international news section in every paper, and if you don’t get the paper then you can type into Google “international news” and find all you ever wanted to know. What we can blame the media for is giving the general population news that they are interested in, and occasionally a little fear mongering to boost ratings (some channels engage in this behavior more than others). I get frustrated when we blame the media for doing what we tell them to. The content of the news is at least in part based on ratings, and so we should not be surprised that the fact that we like knowing what’s going on locally is reflected in what is shown on TV.