Here’s a depressing piece at Open Democracy by Turi Munthe, who summarises for us an analysis by Dr Martin Moore and the Media Standards Trust of the steep relative and absolute decline in foreign news coverage in the British newspapers:

The statistics make frightening reading. They compared foreign news coverage in a selection of the UK print media (Guardian, Telegraph, Mail and Mirror) between 1979, 1989, 1999 and 2009 and found the following:

  • 40% drop in foreign news coverage in absolute terms
  • Today, international news only makes up 11% of news coverage (compared to 20% in 1979)
  • 80% drop in foreign news stories within the first 10 pages…

The full report is here.

What’s going on?

Far more British people travel overseas now than in 1979. Plus we have the Internet, so in theory we should be much better informed if we want to follow foreign stories and understand the wider world.

Yet we’re not. I feel it in myself. I know quite a lot about the Balkans and Poland, and UK, US and European policy-making processes. Something about Russia and the CIS and South Africa. Little if anything about India, China, Brazil, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and everywhere else.

If I want to find out about these places I can in a few minutes pile up incredible quantities of news and information from the Internet. But why bother? It’s there if I need it. Plus the sheer volume and complexity of it all is somehow … intimidating. So I wallow in my ignorance. It just feels cosier.   

Meanwhile too much of what passes for today’s Western news reporting is evident propaganda and/or the belligerent self-importance of the reporter concerned.

Coverage of European affairs is beyond hopeless. With the distinguished exceptions of the FT and European Voice (part of the Economist family), neither cheap if you want the full coverage, it is almost literally impossible to follow EU business and politics via the rest of the UK media.

Or even via UK blogs. How many of the Iain Dale Top 50 blogs regularly carry serious and informed analysis of foreign affairs?  

Plus foreign language teaching in the UK state education sector is an endangered species:

The fewer pupils learning languages, the fewer go into teaching, so fewer learn, so fewer teach, so the subject declines precipitously.

Maybe this is the Tower of Babel.

Infinite chattering and endless ‘information-flow’, but no context. No consensus on what matters.

Not even common sense. Because nothing any more is common.