International news is well-known for its function to help domestic citizens to see the world. Through media, people are able to build a picture of foreign countries and cultures which they have never been to. They are able to learn the convention, absorb new ideas, and expand their horizon about exotic matters. Gurevitch (1990) indicated the power of international news to influence audiences’ cognitive maps of the world. However, the international news may be harmful for the audience in some ways. Galtung and Ruge (1965) explored what made foreign events newsworthy, examined the selecting standard of foreign news and provided eight “culture-free” factors and four “culture-bound” factors for “northern-western” countries. Among them, three factors deserving to get media educators’ attention are relevance, consonance, and unexpectedness. Relevance means the more meaningful, related, connected the foreign sources are for the domestic users; the more possible it will be picked. The danger of this factor is the way that the source is meaningful to the domestic users can be manipulated by interpretation of sources and angle of reporting. There is a possibility that the relevance does not come from the sources alone. Consonance means how much the sources match the pre-image and expectation of domestic users. The problem is if media keeps passing and emphasizing certain image of some countries and cultures to its users, it may be hard for the users to accept various aspects and new progress of foreign cultures in the future. The last one, unexpectedness or rarity means media try to find the source as unusual as possible to attract users. This is one is also very common in domestic news but the media effect happens in a different way. If there are a lot of unexpected foreign news circulating about some cultures, users will easily build a wrong notion or stereotypes through them or, even worse, they start generalizing from the unexpectedness to the whole foreign culture or society and ignore the normality and reality of foreign matters.
In the end of Galtung and Ruge (1965)’s article, they advised some policy implications to prevent these factors in news selecting process. Their suggestions were based on the first half of the chain which they presented to show the flow of new communication (see figure 1), but, by contrast, media educators should be more aware of the rest of the chain. It is a truism that the individuals with low media literacy skills will be guided by the media and people who are strong enough can protect themselves more. Furthermore, with good media literacy skills on international news, citizens will act better in today’s so-called ‘global village’.
Figure 1 (Galtung and Ruge 1965)
Jui-Ping Hung, the author, is a student in the Master’s Degree program in Media Education
- Galtung, J., & Ruge, M. H. (1965). The structure of foreign news. Journal of Peace Research, 2(1), 64-91.
- Gurevitch, M., & Levy, M. (1990). The global newsroom. British Journalism Review, 2(1), 27-37.