There was a mass shooting yesterday. Quite a bizarre story. A young man who had fallen for his cousin’s wife, shot his cousin, and approached the (now) widow. When she spurned him, he shot her and the landlady who tried to intervene. He then drove to another suburb, killed the father and sister of his cousin’s wife, then shot himself. The story is here.
So, did you see this in our newspapers? No? Perhaps it was because the story was in suburban Delhi rather than Detroit? Because I am currently in Mumbai, it is major news in the Times of India (print edition) but I would be amazed if it was reported (other than perhaps as a novelty story) in the Australian press. Why?
More broadly, why do some stories ‘make it’ and become key news stories while other similar stories get no coverage?
Let’s first think of the ‘supply side’.
One reason could be video. If there had been video coverage of the killer (perhaps a siege) then there would have been more coverage because it would be a television story. But that cannot be all. After all, I am sure the Indian media can do video of ‘milling police and grieving relatives’ just as well as the US media.
Another may be ‘ease of supply’. Australian media outlets have close relations with media outlets in north America and western Europe. But the idea that this makes it cheaper or easier to run a story from the US seems inadequate. Our media has close relations with Asia as well – often via ownership (e.g. Murdoch is big in Asian satellite television).
A third could be language. But this makes no sense for India where the up-market press is as likely to be in English as Hindi and the accent is generally often to understand than English from most western European countries. Indeed, if anything, English speaking Indian news presenters tend to sound ‘British’ in accent.
So the reason is presumably on the ‘demand side’. Why do we, as media consumers, care more about a mass shooting in the US than one in India, elsewhere in Asia or in eastern Europe?
It could be that we ‘relate’ more to the US and western Europe than to Asia or other parts of the world. Ancestry could help explain this for western Europe. However, at least for the US, ability to relate must be through a broad view that ‘they are like us’ rather than ancestry. Perhaps it is through years of exposure to US sitcoms!
If this is the case, what does it mean for Australia being economically ‘closer’ to our northern neighbours in the ‘Asian Century’. It may be that our cultural norms change over time. As an increasing share of our population have Asian ancestry we may start to move from being US-centric to Asian-centric. But until then, the view from Asia will be that Australia doesn’t really give a hoot about its northern neighbors. And if we want to be viewed as more than a giant mine and farm in the eyes of Asian business, then this is a problem.