The extent of reach which Mass Media in this digital age commands, is truly amazing and eye opening; both in terms of viewership and the ability to influence a person’s thinking. But why do I get the feeling that Mass Media is misusing this power, misleading people, creating unnecessary hype to increase circulation numbers. With absolute power comes great responsibility. Mass Media has acquired absolute power, but lacking in the responsibility department.

Let me explain, using an example, why do I have this grouse against Mass Media.

By “Mass Media” I am referring to the most common form of news outlet, the newspaper, which includes both print and online versions. Recently the G8 summit in Japan had concluded, with pledges on the food and oil crises and climate change among other things.

As usual, the summit received its usual share of media coverage. But a few publications such as The Daily Mail and The Washington Times had a completely different take on the proceedings. Food crisis was one of the major issues that was addressed at the summit. But these two publications took it upon themselves to bring it to the public notice that the leaders and the dignitaries gorged upon a 18-course banquet which they had apparently found it hard to swallow.

The headline from The Daily Mail screamed “Summit That’s Hard To Swallow – World Leaders Enjoy 18-Course Banquet As They Discuss How To Solve Global Food Crisis.” The article has pictures of the leaders enjoying the extravagant banquet, the menu and a picture of malnourished group of people as a contrast. The article, written by James Chapman lambasts the G8 summit members for treating themselves to a lavish banquet while urging the world to stop wasting food and combat rising prices and a global shortage of provisions. The sarcasm was pretty obvious as you can perceive from the following quotes from the article:

“The world leaders sat down to an 18-course gastronomic extravaganza at a G8 summit in Japan, which is focusing on the food crisis.”

“G8 leaders discussing the world food crisis in Japan raise their glasses ahead of an 18-course dinner.”

Dominic Nutt, of the charity Save the Children is quoted saying, “It is deeply hypocritical that they should be lavishing course after course on world leaders when there is a food crisis and millions cannot afford a decent meal. If the G8 wants to betray the hopes of a generation of children, it is going the right way about it. The food crisis is an emergency and the G8 must treat it as that.”

Here are some excerpts from The Washington Times article:

Lentil soup and a crust of bread as the first, second and third course at a recent G8 summit in Japan might at least have conveyed the impression the leaders of the world’s principal industrialized nations were focused on a fast-unfolding food shortage engulfing the entire planet.

Instead, the convivial summiteers feasted on a six-course lunch at a five-star lakeside hotel on the island of Hokkaido, followed that evening by an eight-course heartburning dinner, from Kyoto beef shabu-shabu, to dicey fatty tuna, to clams floating in Shiso, to broiled prawns in Tosazu, to salt-grilled rockfish, to milk-fed baby lamb to G8 “Fantasy Desert,” all washed down by wine and champagne vintages from all over the world. To then make global food security a top priority was a tad Pecksniffian.

Year in and year out, the G8 meet in a bucolic setting pleasing on the eyes that tends to act as a soporific on the part of the brain that allows summiteers to anticipate global crises.

In Japan last month, the Eight Big Ones agreed to reconvene in 2009 on the Mediterranean island La Maddalena, nestled in the Straits of Bonifacio between Corsica and Northern Sardinia, one of the last untouched beautiful spots in the world. But they could save their taxpayers a bundle by canceling their reservations now and videoconferencing instead – twice a year.

My grouse is that why focus on trivial issues such as the food that was consumed and the location of the G8 summit. Why not focus on the critical issues such as food and oil crisis, climate change and so on. With the reach that these publications posses, they can put it to good use by spreading awareness on these issues. But instead they chose to focus on the food which the leaders consumed, the menu and gripe about the exotic locations in which the G8 summit would be held in the future.

What did they expect? The world leaders would assemble in a dingy hall and hammer out a solution to the crises that are afflicting the world, munching on plain bread. C’mon. It’s a three day summit where the Head’s of Nation’s assemble. Is Japan to blame for treating them to a “royal banquet?” I believe Japan just upheld its tradition by showcasing its culture and generosity by playing a perfect host to the G8 Summit.

Am I wrong in saying that these publications could have done better? Is my grouse un-justified? Am I biased? Are my views shortsighted?

Source: The Washington Times, The Daily Mail.