The international desk.

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

I worked for Turner Broadcasting System during the earliest days of CNN (and TBS for that matter), and during a global pandemic, my instincts are to turn there for a global perspective on what’s happening.

Sadly, foreign news coverage (what CNN founder Ted Turner insisted be called international news coverage because foreign had that “not from here” put-down attached to it)…well, I have a lot of trouble finding the international coverage on the regular CNN, and we don’t have the generally more global CNN international as a channel choice.

Why is that? Well, I think the feedback they get (and to my mind this becomes a self-reinforcing system) is that, especially in a crisis that hits home, American viewers don’t particularly care about their fellow humans elsewhere, unless it’s just to utter a “tsk, tsk” at bad news from across the oceans. That’s what CNN’s focus groups are telling them. I think the truth is we’d like a broader focus, even in quieter times, but that’s just me.

Also right now, CNN’s news operations are based in New York (they used to be here in Atlanta, which remains a feed center but not that much else.) In New York, the news…the fear from the millions of pandemic-threatened humans right there in the five boroughs overwhelms and sidelines the rest of the globe’s very human stories.

But we do have options in an internet-connected age that go way beyond the Facebook and the Twitter. We can watch news gathered by journalists who work around the globe. We have live streaming choices. Y’know, kinda like television!

We have BBC News America, which most of the day is BBC’s 24 hour news channel, and on YouTube it’s easy to find legit live feeds for France24 (in French, English, Spanish, or Arabic), Franceinfo (in French only, merci), Sky News in the UK, DW News (from Germany, but in English) Al Jazeera English (from Qatar, in English), and ABC News, that’s Australia’s public broadcaster live, 24 hours a day,and Australia’s day is, probably not news to you, a full 12 hours ahead of ours. Oh, and Atlanta’s WPBA PBS station carries NHK News from Japan in English on their DTV 30.2 channel, and, on YouTube I watch a lot of CBC News’s coverage from Canada. Sometimes I can speak decent Canadian.

That’s a pretty rich buffet of choices! If nothing else, you can see the leaders literally on the other side of the world struggle with some of the same sorts of challenges. That connection feels very human to me, and gives me comfort as we roll on.