Thursday, 22 May 2008

CNN effect or Compassion Fatigue?

The notion that global media can have an effect on diplomacy, geopolitics and humanitarian responses to disasters has been called the "CNN effect". But the global media is also fickle, with a short attention span. It often does not take long for "compassion fatigue" to set in, and for the global media to search for some gory news elsewhere. Clever governments, aid agencies and PR workers who know how the media works, can use this to their advantage. In an interesting piece in the Guardian, Simon Jenkins compares the way that the Chinese government responded to the recent earthquake, to the response of the Burmese junta to the recent flooding resulting from a cyclone in the region. The former managed to play up their response to the global media, in order to offset negative coverage of the country in the face of the upcoming Olympics. The latter continued to shun Western aid and attention, and the global media complied by averting their eyes from the Burmese victims and the situation in the country. An interesting dance, the one between media and power.
(pic: AFP/

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