News coverage must extend to all countries

By Copy Editor

As headlines describing the civil unrest in Ukraine appear worldwide, Western media sources have given little attention to the desperate situation in Venezuela, which is seeing increasingly shocking homicide rates. With front-page space in Western news outlets almost entirely dedicated to the situation in Ukraine, major news sources are ignoring their journalistic responsibility: to report on all important world events.

If global human interest contributed to newsworthiness, Venezuela would occupy much more space in Western publications. Feb. 20 marked the most lethal day in Ukrainian history since its liberation from the Soviet Union in 1991, with a death toll of more than 70 and more than 1,000 wounded, according to a same day New York Times report. By comparison, Ukraine’s deadliest day mirrors the average murder rate in Venezuela, where 70 people die every day, a number that is still steadily increasing, according to a March 7 ElUniversal.com report.

While major Western news outlets generally glaze over the conflict in Venezuela, Twitter activity attests that the conflict’s global impact is more significant than Western media portray. Tweets with the word “Ukraine” dwindled significantly since the March 2 high of 400,000, according to Topsy.com, a Twitter analytics website, and they dipped below the 100,000 mark on March 7, steadily dropping since then, even as Russia encroaches into sovereign Ukrainian territory. However, tweets including the word “Venezuela” have remained pervasive worldwide.

The Topsy charts reflect that there are, on average, twice as many tweets about the conflict in Venezuela as there are about the revolution in Ukraine. With so much obvious public interest, why are Western media ignoring it?

The global recognition of Venezuela’s problems on Twitter is unsurprising. Venezuela’s murder count reached nearly 25,000 in 2013, spiraling out of control after President Hugo Chavez’s death last March. Since the beginning of 2014, roughly 2,840 Venezuelans have been murdered, 10 percent more than last year around the same time when 2,576 murders were recorded, according to the ElUniversal.com report.

2014 marks the deadliest year for Venezuela thus far with 91 percent of murders going unpunished, according to the Institute for Research on Coexistence and Citizen Security.

Unless things change, Venezuela’s murder rate could serve as a death note for the state’s wavering integrity, but with so little international attention from the global powers that be, change does not seem likely.

Though the revolution in Ukraine suggests an impending change in the geopolitical map of Europe, the escalating problems in Venezuela, which Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has blamed on the United States for allegedly supporting a coup instigated against him, mean something very similar for South America. Like Ukraine, the violence in Venezuela is being met with protests from Venezuelan youth, and like Ukraine, the violence and protests are fomenting what seems to be a revolution, albeit one disguised by utter chaos. Venezuela appears to be a Latin American analogue to Ukraine, and a more historically violent one at that. However, mainstream media have dedicated coverage disproportionately to Ukraine, perhaps because of Venezuela’s loyalty to Cuba and political animosity toward the U.S.

With so little front-page real estate dedicated to global issues transpiring beyond the scope of Western news priority, the role of the average citizen and their relationship with news is becoming increasingly important. If news outlets such as CNN and The New York Times cannot, or will not, extensively cover violence in countries such as Venezuela that restrict freedom of speech, the responsibility falls upon citizens to acknowledge global problems.

However, international attention is more than an issue of selective coverage. Venezuela’s own news outlets are choked by oppressive regime constraints on media, and many journalists are violently interrogated by government officials, meaning national news outlets such as CNN en Español are the only alternatives for coverage outside of social networking tools.

It is negligent of the U.S. media and the media outlets in other Western countries to either ignore or fail to adequately address a systemically increasing nationwide disaster. Tragedies happening in other regions of the world should not be allowed to simply slip under the radar because of reportorial myopia. The bottom line is that lives are lives, and it seems that the most deadly day in Ukrainian history since the collapse of the USSR has been playing on repeat in Venezuela.

It is time to start paying more attention to the global community we all inhabit. The problems in other parts of the world should not seem so distant, especially for a diverse country like the U.S., where favoritism should not dictate what is newsworthy.

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