Awareness Issues

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

March 25, 2009 Ed Cartoon

One glance at a newspaper or cable news show and you are bound to see stories about global problems, be it another tragic genocide, war or natural disaster occurring halfway around the world.

Initially these issues flood the media but, like any trend, they tend to vanish from the spotlight over time " regardless of whether or not they have been resolved.

How exactly do particular news stories become so “sexy,” and why do even the most compelling tragedies and problems fade from the media eye?

For one thing, both the media and general public gravitate towards issues endorsed by celebrities. Once media darlings like Madonna and Angelina Jolie take up a particular cause, others tend to hop on the activist bandwagon.

In addition, issues such as Hurricane Katrina’s massive devastation or the plight of those in Tibet tend to have immense shock value. Staggering death tolls, images of protests and reports of human rights abuses all make for attention-grabbing news stories.

However, once the shock value wears off and celebrity endorsements run their course, many global problems are left forgotten. The unresolved situation in Tibet is a perfect example, having faded from the front page since the 60s until a renaissance for a 50th anniversary.

People are desensitized to seeing the same stories repeatedly in the news " what were once horrifying numbers of fatalities, for example, may eventually appear to be nothing more than statistics.

Most people also grow weary of hearing about global problems because they have enough to think about in their day-to-day life. When faced with the stresses of school, work or family, many want to open a newspaper or turn on the television to find out about something hopeful and uplifting, not gruesome or unsettling.

At the same time, stories about the small inroads being made to solve global problems are often not newsworthy, as they lack the scandal and spectacle of the issues themselves.

Sadly, this situation means that both the media and the public eventually close the book on problems before they are even close to being resolved.

Various activist groups have tried to combat this by focusing on measurable goals, some more successfully than others. Students Taking Action Now: Darfur, in attempts to aid with the ongoing crisis in Darfur, has pressured businesses and institutions such as Western to divest from Sudan.

Other groups are more awareness-based, which has both pros and cons. On one hand, getting the word out about issues is great, but it often has the same effect as media coverage. People care for a time, but soon the trend fades away and little is accomplished.

The bottom line is that, while trends come and go, these problems are real and lasting. Individuals and governments who truly care about solving global issues will go beyond the media trends to learn more and focus on incremental but achievable goals.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette