learning pages / Global outlook

3.4 : The ‘global outlook’: a shift in the perception of reality

A global outlook expands our understanding of the world and our role in it. It broadens the imaginable boundaries of our understanding of the world, changing it from a dichotomy between a domestic versus foreign outlook to a relations-based global outlook. It brings new ways of interpreting and arranging reality. Thanks to these new skill sets, it enables journalists to connect seemingly unrelated events taking place at different continents, in different positions in local, regional, international and other power structures, into one single coherent story.

Author: Anna Mikulska

You certainly know the feeling of discovering a new city you have just moved to. At first, you get to know the immediate surroundings, street by street, a shop here, good coffee there, delicious pasta around the corner. In short, you get a ‘domestic’ outlook.

At the same time you commute to your new office in another part of the city, and take your family to stroll around some of the highlights in the old quarter – you go back and forth, crossing white spaces on the map, without even leaving the subway. This is closer to a ‘foreign’ outlook, focusing on remote places without a clear connection with your local neighborhood.

You continue with both, and suddenly, in one moment, everything changes. All of a sudden you realize that previously far away streets are actually much closer than you had imagined. You find out that there is a hidden shortcut between the grocery, your flat and your favourite bookshop, which you previously assumed was much further away than it actually was.

You realize that walking just a hundred meters around the corner will get you to the bus-stop from where you can get to your work much faster – and explore the surrounding on the way. And – surprise, surprise – the beautiful park you took a long metro ride with your family to visit is actually in walking distance from your flat, if you are willing to go through a rundown industrial zone.

Suddenly you can see how the city’s parts are related to each other, and find interconnections where you did not expect to find them. Your outlook becomes global: the ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’ have now come together.

This metaphor illustrates the epistemic and cognitive shift journalists encounter when they adopt a global outlook to their reporting. Previously unseen interconnections and relations suddenly appear from places and stories they did not previously even think about connecting.

In this way global journalism, with its global outlook, widens the understanding of the world and our role in it. It broadens the(imaginable boundaries of our understanding of the world, of contexts and relations, and moves it to a new level. At the same time it brings new ways of interpreting and arranging the reality, focusing on global interconnections and relations rather than on events, with the aid of a global imagination.

It is, however, not that easy. It requires journalists and editors to develop a new skill set. For a start, it means admitting the very existence of global interconnections and our own role in these developments – something many people are surprisingly reluctant to do. Similarly, switching from the fragmented viewpoint of the ‘foreign’ outlook to the unified reality of the ‘global’ outlook can be more difficult than it might seem.

This cognitive shift pushes us out of our comfort zone, beyond the borders of the established worldview we were raised and socialized in (see hegemony in journalism). Our deep reluctance to alter our accepted version of reality can mean that, even when we accept something is true on one level, our minds will still resist it (a situation known as cognitive dissonance).

Another set of skills that global journalism requires is intercultural communication. If we are trying to connect different cultural and geographical contexts, intercultural communication is therefore a must. Otherwise, we may end up, even unconsciously, projecting our own norms on different contexts (see ethnocentrism and case study in the box).

Case study of ethnocentrism and its consequences:

Read the following story and try to think about the questions below the text:

Imagine you are a journalist on vacation in Japan. You and your friends are climbing one of the many sacred mountains in this country. As the slope is very steep and your shoes are not well suited to the terrain, you keep slipping – and eventually, just as a Japanese couple pass you, fall to the ground. Your friends help you get back on your feet, but the Japanese couple start to laugh loudly in your direction. (source)

  • Why do you think the Japanese couple laughed at you?
  • How could this experience influence your opinion (and articles if you were a journalist) on Japan?
  • How could your article influence your audience’s understanding of Japan, particularly if the majority of them have never visited the country themselves and may never do so?
  • And why did they in fact laugh?

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3.1 : Why do we need a global outlook?

The challenges humanity faces today and the rapid geopolitical changes taking place around us means that the need to perceive and reflect the global community as a whole is more urgent than ever. With globalization, we find ourselves closely connected to people and countries on the other side of the planet, but the media has often been slow to fully acknowledge that. Journalism with a global outlook – or ‘global journalism’ – could help ensure that media coverage can catch up with this new reality.

3.2 : What is global journalism?

Even though we live in a globalized world, media coverage often fails react to reflect this. Global journalism responds to these shortcomings through an approach to reporting that explores, analyses and reflects on the relations and interconnections between people and events in different parts of the planet.

3.3 : Where does global journalism come from?

The need for a global approach to journalism can be understood as a long overdue reaction to the changing status quo of the world, its shifting power structures and the complex dynamics driving this transformation, rooted in the growing crises we face in a globalized context.

3.5 : Why is it important to include a global outlook in reporting?

Free, fair and balanced journalism has always been an important cornerstone of modernity and democracy, empowering people and societies. But the world has changed radically and journalism must adapt to ensure it remains relevant to today’s challenges. With this in mind, global journalism promotes global empowerment and creates the space to debate global issues, problems and solutions. By doing so it makes societies and communities more resilient and better able to withstand the many crises we face.

3.6 : What is NOT global journalism?

Global journalism is not a manual or guide imposed externally on journalists for their enlightenment. On the contrary, it has evolved from within practice and processes in the field. It does not come burdened with predefined morals or assumptions: it simply highlights neglected or disregarded aspects of global politics. It is not in itself corrective, aiming to achieve a particular agenda – it just seeks to accurately reflect the new global reality. Finally, it is not presented as a substitute for either domestic, foreign journalism, but aims to build on the best aspects of both to promote more responsive and far-reaching coverage of the same issues.

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