Early this week I spoke to Mr. Burch about his Debate and Forensics classes, and he shared a really interesting tool with me. I only had a chance to explore it today, and maybe because it is a Sunday, what I saw made me want to write a blog post.
Newsmap is a tool that takes data from the Google News aggregator and creates color-coded representations of the number of sources and articles devoted to particular topics at particular times. You can select the country of the news sources to see what is being reported in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and many other places around the world.
So, I started with an overall view of the news, then started selecting individual countries at random. It was surprising to see the different proportion of news “airtime” dedicated to different concerns. Take a look at what each country finds most news-worthy. Follow this color-coded key to know the topics even when you don’t understand the language.
Let’s start wit the United States. Look at that! Half the screen is taken up by sports news. I hope when I look at this again in the middle of the week the proportion of blue will be smaller.
Now look at Canada.
I would have thought they might have something more important to report than someone else’s presidential campaign. Hmm… Also, take a look at the tiny corner devoted to national news. Is nothing going on in Canada? I’d love for Canadian educators to chime in on this.
Up next is the Netherlands. I can’t read a word they are reporting, but the distribution is what’s important to me right now.
Yes, their sports section is large, but it is followed by their national news. It is a tiny country when compared to Canada and the United States. Is more happening there, or do they just find it more important?
Brazil seemed to have the most equitable division of news of the countries I looked at. There is a fair proportion of the screen dedicated to sports, national, and world news, with the remainder dedicated to entertainment, business, and technology.
I thought this was a valuable exercise for me. It made me think about different cultures and what they find most important. On the flipside, it made me wonder: Do the chunks of color in these screen shots really represent the values of the people in each country? Who makes the choice to report one thing over another? And how accurate is Google News in aggregating equitably from all sources to present an accurate picture of what’s most newsworthy?
I know we have many teachers in Goochland County who are working to make their students more aware of the world beyond the county line. This would be a great tool to start a class discussion. Just pull up one of these screens on the projector and ask a few questions. Let students click on a square they find interesting and go from there.