UH Welcomes Global Village

Journalists from around the world meet in a symposium called "Think Globally, Write Locally." Standing (l to r): Jiang Xiaofeng, Beverely Kees, Mike Leidemann, Dagmar Stockle, Xie Dan, Tom Brislin, Ma Zhenhuan, Kristin Schonfelder, Ouyang Wei, David Butts, Zhao Renfeng. Seated: Andrea Gottke, Yi Xuejun, Pang Bo.

By Tom Brislin
Honolulu Advertiser,
Nov. 17, 1999 (A-10)

A local footnote in the 10th anniversary of the implosion of a divided Germany is one of the several chants and slogans shouted by East Germans seeking greater freedoms: "Visafrei bis nach Hawaii."

German Journalists Kristin Schonfelder
and Andrea Gottke
German journalist Kristin Schonfelder recalls shouting the slogan as a 19-year-old university student with thousands of other candle-holding marchers, pushing back the darkness of the streets of Leipzig in the weeks before the crumbling of the Berlin Wall.

"It means 'Without a visa to Hawaii,'" Schonfelder says. "We wanted freedom to travel as far as we wanted, and Hawaii was the farthest away of any place we could imagine.And now, 10 years later, I am here. I never would have thought it possible."

Schonfelder was among a group of international journalists participating in a daylong symposium on global journalism at the University of Hawaii this month. It was called "Think Globally, Write Locally" and included eight journalists from the People's Republic of China, three from Germany, and several Hawaii and Mainland journalists who have worked or plan to work in Asia.

Ironically, one theme of the day was "all global news is someone's local news," a concept that became tragically concrete as local coverage of the Xerox Corp. killings became national and international news stories.

Discussions of how news coverage shapes images between and within countries, cultures and people dominated the day. Schonfelder and fellow former East German Andrea Gottke remarked how divisions between the East and West remain. This is partly because of the structure of German broadcasting, which eschews a national dominating public network, out of historic fears of centralized power, in favor of smaller state and regional networks.

These stations reflect and retain not only the tastes, but also the identity of the areas, not all of which in the East have openly embraced the market capitalism over government socialism of the West.

In contrast, Dagmar Stockle directs news programs for a nationwide private TV channel where news, as in the U.S., can easily become more commodity than polity.

Images between Germany and China have shifted direction in the decade since unification. "We were members of the same socialist club," Gottke said. What was once seen as mighty historic struggle is now viewed as lumbering and blundering toward an uncertain global market. Xinhua News Agency's Zhao Renfeng complained that most of news about China revolves around politics rather than development. "We are defined by Falun Gong and Tianamen Square," he said.

David Butts, former Tokyo & Asia bureau chief for UPI and Bloomberg Business News, said the best global reporting are stories that draw us together.
Beverly Kees
He suggested that a broader definition of business and economic news would be more successful than the usual mix of politics and policy. "We don't wake up in the morning and pay taxes," he said. "We wake up in the morning and go to work. Business occupies our days, not politics."

Global reporting does not differ from other journalism in terms of using conflict as the dominant frame for storytelling. We too often present the world as adversarial, dwelling on our differences rather than on our common struggles.

Beverly Kees of the Freedom Forum's Pacific Coast Center took the theme a step further. Journalists need to do a better job making the distinction between what's dangerous to our lives, and what's merely different. When we're presented with a view that everything that is different is dangerous to us, we shut out not only the diversity of a global perspective, but also the diversity in our own communities.

In the Global Village, all news is local.


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