Conflicts, coups and catastrophes: These are the stories Canadians are most often told about the world beyond our borders.
Media coverage of international affairs has long been driven by dramatic breaking news events while deep reporting on the ongoing issues affecting the developing world has been as scarce as the GDP of some of the planet’s poorest nations.
That is the unsurprising news in a recently released research project exploring Canadian media coverage of global development issues. The extensive and excellent report was commissioned by the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and conducted by a research team from Carleton University and Université Laval.
Western media coverage of the developing world tends to be, “rare, episodic, fragmentary and focused on conflict and catastrophe,” the report concludes.
The study asked several critical questions about Canadian media and the developing world: What are the stories that Canadians are told about the developing world? Which part of the developing world do these stories feature? Who are the voices and sources telling these stories? What perspectives and interests are informing them?
It also included a content analysis of the media coverage of the developing world by significant Canadian news organizations, reviewing more than 3,000 news stories across multiple news platforms from January to April, 2015.
Here, the results were pleasantly surprising: Among English language newspapers included in the study, the Toronto Star had the highest volume of coverage about developing countries included in the study — 21 per cent, compared to 12 per cent for both the Globe and Mail and the National Post.
As well, the content analysis indicated that of all the Canadian English-language newspapers studied, the Toronto Star published more development-themed coverage than any other.
In other words, the Star drove deeper than the usual drama/conflict narrative to provide more reporting, analysis and opinion journalism focused on development themes, such as education, health, human rights, gender and infrastructure.
“In the English media, the Toronto Star had the highest volume of all international news coverage of the developing world, both in terms of development and non-development stories,” the report states.