This is just a quick aside (I have all these blog posts planned, but I need to get this off my chest).
Most of you probably don’t know this, but I’m half-Greek. Greek enough that my grandmother lives in Athens, even though my mother was born in this country. I speak Greek and have visited my grandmother, in Greece, every summer since I was born.
What most of you are probably at least peripherally aware of is that Greece is currently facing some serious difficulties because of their economic woes.
It’s really hard to keep up with the economic (and political, and protest) situation in Greece. It’s never on the front page of the NYTimes.com, it’s not even on the front page of the World section. Not even when big questions about austerity cuts and stimulus packages are on the table, accompanied, as always, by the constant question of “Will this be the thing that finally ejects Greece from the Eurozone?”
It terrifies me. The pictures of protesters you come across sometimes? Those are usually taken in Constitution Square, approximately a 5 minute walk from my grandmother’s apartment. A friend of mine who met her pointed out, when I brought it up to her recently, “And you’re grandmother doesn’t really seem like the kind of lady to stay inside just because there is a protest going on.” They’re lighting cops on fire, and she has to buy the newspaper. When they leave their demonstrations, they usually head straight into her neighborhood.
Since we brought up The Guardian in class to talk about the layout, I’ve found myself there pretty regularly. They’re European enough that they cover the Eurozone issues and spend a significant amount of time on Greece in particular. My friend Billy, who is a history major, laughed at me when I complained about the New York Times’ failure to report on the issue. “Americans don’t care,” he said. “I care,” I replied. He told me, “I know,” and pat me on the head.
And that’s how it can feel sometimes.
This is probably a pretty significant reason why people don’t always read the news. It can take pretty serious effort to find the news you care about. Journalists have two jobs; to keep people generally informed about the issues they should care about (and that is, in and of itself, an immeasurably complicated question), but also they need to help people stay on top of the situations they care about. And I’m not sure how we can balance that, all the time. It can be hard to care about things that are too far away from us.
I can accept that for most Americans, the fact that Greece is starting to resemble Germany pre-World War II, and has the fascists to go with it (thank you, Golden Dawn), really isn’t all that important. You’re not thinking of your grandmother when you look at the pictures of the protesters in front of parliament.
On a slightly different note; I have a perhaps problematic tendency to report on these things at WMUA, because I‘m invested in the story. But I wonder, on the matter of “objectivity,” if I were there (which I plan to be, at some point, and not just for the summer) would I be able to report on it objectively. Would I be able to see people picking through garbage cans because they have no money and watch cops duck from petrol bombs thrown at them, and report on it without some kind of bias? Without some strong emotional connections to the material? I think of our editor trying to impress on us the importance of not having some kind of conflict of interest in our reporting; but if I were in a situation as charged as this one, where each and every decision and action has a consequence that will directly affect me, my family, my friends, is that not by definition a conflict of interest?
The Elements of Journalism briefly mentioned that few journalists today are members of the communities they’re reporting on, and that this causes their reporting to feel disconnected. Do we want objective reporting in the first place?
FURTHER READING FROM THE GUARDIAN:
Pictures of riot outside parliament Wednesday night while the most recent austerity measures were being debated (and ultimately, passed).
An editorial about the strain democratic government faces in situations such as the one Greece is in. It also touches on an idea shared by a number of sympathizers to the Greek plight with regards to the feeling that Greece is being made an example of.
And another editorial about why austerity measures might not be working.