In criticism (or praise?) of foreign correspondents

A colleague pointed out this Slate piece by Joshua Keating as a hilarious take on how we foreign correspondents have the tendency to reduce other countries down into simple images and cliches. But I see something else here, I think this is just as much (if not more) a criticism of the hypocrisy in the way we cover ourselves. We do our readers, average American voters, a disservice by NOT making these broad connections and sweeping statements about what our country looks like when we just step back and look at what’s going on as a whole. Why is it that we can call another country’s government and politicians out for their “politically powerful oligarchs” or “legally sanctioned slush funds” and not say the same things about ourselves? These may be cliches, but at least we’re telling it like it is.

It may be true that in some of the worst cases, American media can sometimes oversimplify and do things like link every single news event in a country to something like the world cup or some highly criticized federal government policy, ignoring all nuance and sometimes even truth. But for the most part, I think correspondents just want to report as much as possible and apply their own educated analysis to convey the truth of what is happening, and end up having to use cliches and simplifications because I mean … how else can you explain to a reader, in 500-2000 words, everything that’s happening in a country they have probably never been to? So my question is, why don’t we use the same critical thinking skills to try and give our readers a better grasp on what is really happening in their own country?


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