Keeping in touch
Woke up in the middle of the night and decided to do a little writing to get something out of my head.
I’m out of the country visiting some developers, and noticing how challenging it is to stay in touch with the news. I was thinking about this before leaving San Francisco, but being here amplifies it even more.
The fundamental question I’m considering is this: how do I stay up to date with what I think I need to know about?
So, first: what do I think I need to know about?
a) Events that impact me directly – local news about events in my city.
b) Events that will impact me – policy news about my state and country.
c) Events that could impact me in the future – news about events and policy decisions around the world.
Second, how do I stay up to date with these?
a) Local news is easy. Local newspapers, websites, and news shows are all readily available. With the advent of the Internet, I stay in touch by visiting the San Francisco Chronicle website.
b) State and country news isn’t too tough either. The aforementioned website covers California quite well, including regional events for other California cities as well as governmental policy decisions that will impact me in some way. For national information, there are a variety of newspapers, websites, and news shows that do a passable job: I choose CNN.com, nytimes.com, and the Wall Street Journal for the most part.
c) Global news is the most challenging. CNN claims to do a good job. So does the New York Times. So does the Financial Times. But frankly I find that none of these really do the trick. In each of these publications I hear relatively little about say, China, Africa, or the Arab World. Each of these appears really to be a western-world information source. Does the language barrier make these other cultures impermeable, or is there just an arrogance that perhaps these other regions are less relevant to us?
At this point I’m encouraged to reflect on whether the information I’m seeking on other cultures IS actually important. But the driving event for me here is news currently coming out of Egypt. Since I recently visited Cairo and saw some people protesting against the government, I’m naturally curious about what’s going on. And what’s going on right now is pretty crazy. Did you catch it? President Mubarak has decreed that local council members’ terms are all going to be extended by two years. Of course, the majority of these members are also members of his party! The two houses of government (the Shura Council and People’s Assembly) are also majority held by Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, so it is very likely that this decree will pass through all parts of government successfully.
Can you imagine President Bush doing this? Just extending the terms of all city, county, and state elected officials, and having them be majority Republican-held? Since our House and Senate are majority-Republican, it could easily sail through. But people would FLIP OUT.
So why aren’t we hearing more about this? What’s going on in Egypt at the moment? Egypt is one of the more democratic countries of the Arab world – are we just not making a fuss because we want to back their elected president?
But back to the issue at hand – why am I not hearing more about this? Instead everything is eclipsed by a single huge news item: Cheney shot his friend while hunting. Okay, important, yes. But relevant to me…? Not so much. Okay, Egypt – relevant to me, perhaps not so much either. But I don’t even seem to have the option of hunting down news on this unless I can read Arabic.
This eclipse effect happens frequently at our national level in the U.S., blocking out news from around the world. The Internet should help us break through the eclipse, if we can find good sources of information. But where are those? Do I have to resort to national-level news sources, and be passably fluent in their languages? It seems so.
Where do you go for news around the world?