The race to pin down what’s wrong with the American news media seems endless, or maybe bottomless; anyway, it’s witless. Absent the battling of General Jack Shaferand a few principled foot soldiers (the Poynter Institute, the Center for Media and Democracy), the whole thing has become an echo chamber of opinions political (liberal bias! Faux News!) and financial (charge for Web content! Kill the dead trees!!). Naturally the more important question — whether the American news media, whatever its troubles, is actually good at reporting the news — is rarely asked, and naturally anybody who dared answer would be torn apart by the talking heads.
Well, I suggest there’s a bigger truth to be recognized. American news may or may not suck, may or may not be biased, may or may not be going bankrupt, but it is most definitely suffering a debilitating case of navel-gazing. Seriously: when was the last time you saw a big story that wasn’t about the Dow, or D.C., or Michelle Obama and her magnificent arms? At this point it’s not just lazy, it’s fucking boring. I mean, a volcano blew up in Tonga last week. Nobody was hurt. It was rad! U.S. coverage? As lukewarm as lava is hot. So, real quick now, four sites worth bookmarking if you’re interested in what’s going on in the rest of the world.
The BBC: still unmatched for global reach and local expertise.
Der Spiegel International: world news from a European perspective, and one of the best culture pages (Zeitgeist) anywhere.
The Institute for War and Peace Reporting: keeping the spotlight on the darkest corners of the globe, and protecting the brave folks who report from them.
International Crisis Group: deep analysis of current disasters, and a keen eye on the ones looming on the horizon.