Dale Appleby

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Weekly Reflections

Not like us?

Not like us?

The terrible carnage in Paris has raised again the question of bias in reporting. Many on Facebook have been overlaying their profile pictures with the colours of the French flag. Others on the other hand have asked why they didn't also use the Lebanese flag colours or those of Kenya, or Syria for that matter (the day before the Paris attacks bombs in Beirut killed 44 people, in April 147 people people were killed at a university in Kenya).

The debate is partly about news media basing their reporting on what the audience wants to see or read. Nowadays there are fairly accurate measures of audience response. Generally, it seems, people respond more to stories about “people like us”.


Many criticise the kind of calculations such as: one Australian is worth five Americans, 20 Italians, 50 Japanese, 100 Russians, 500 Indians and 1000 Africans.

Nevertheless some such kind of calculation often seems to be in use. Presumably partly because that is what appeals to the audience. What I would call Bogan Television ramps this up to give much greater value to stories that are set in our own town or state. A very parochial version of the news.

The cultural disparity involved in this is partly our responsibility. And it probably reflects the interests of most Australians (the same patterns no doubt apply to other countries as well).

The parallel to it in the Christian world is worth considering, because it applies to the disparity in our priorities to reach those who “are not like us”


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