Simon Kuper in the FT Weekend, takes shots at “the news,” maybe also at his own newspaper:

… [N]ews has become news about rich people. Today’s economic inequality is reflected and driven by inequality of news.

Much of this news about rich people is produced by just a few English-language sources. A wire service will put out a story, a newspaper will get a scoop or will run a headline, and within seconds the “news” gets parroted by websites, TV channels and newspapers from Warsaw to Waikiki. It saves them hiring their own reporters. Lady Gaga sings at a gay pride rally in Rome and the whole world simply reprints the story.

And so news becomes news about a small global elite of athletes, entertainers, royals and politicians …

These celebrities are overwhelmingly Anglophone. Only stories in English get duplicated around the world. People who write in English prefer celebrities who speak English. In Forbes magazine’s recent list of the “World’s Most Powerful Celebrities”, the highest-ranked non-native-English-speaker was Cristiano Ronaldo at number 43, and even he had created his brand while playing in England.

The global elite has grown fantastically rich in recent decades: the average person on Forbes’s list pocketed an estimated $45m last year. Consequently, we’re forever reading about rich people. Indeed, being rich has become almost the criterion for being newsworthy. A sportsman or artist who isn’t rich is not counted as successful and therefore not given airtime. And if you get airtime, you can generally convert it into more money through endorsements, speaking fees or reality TV (the future for New York’s Congressman Anthony Weiner). Everyone in the news is rich, or soon becomes so. (Cognoscenti call this the Sarah Palin Effect.)

… [W]e forget the poor. They may always be with us, but not in the media. The perhaps 2.5 billion people with less than $2 a day get ignored, due to the triple whammy of being poor, non-white and non-Anglophone.

For instance, there’s a new treatment that stops the spread of Aids, but rich countries are reluctant to fund it. This has generated a few worthy editorials in highbrow publications, but otherwise is considered too boring to tweet.

Even the white Anglophone poor struggle for airtime … When poor people did get airtime, it was often as objects of derision on Jerry Springer-like shows …

At best, the poor get covered as a faceless group: young Spanish demonstrators, or foreclosed Americans in tent cities, or African Aids orphans. Rich people appear as individuals, and are therefore more vivid. Even when we depict them as “fat cats”, they are the story. In fact, we’ve become exactly the media that an unequal world requires.


Further Reading

No more caricatures

Engaging seriously with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s life could help us understand how South Africa got where it is and where it’s going.