Scanning the Global Village

Brian Covert

It was the shortest three hours I can remember.

Here I was, sitting in a dimly lit room on the Cal State University, Fresno campus last Saturday, while the rest of the community was outside gearing up for the annual Vintage Days festivities.

But I didn’t mind a bit. The program on the big screen in front of me spanned far beyond the boundaries of the campus and surrounding community.

It was an “International Video Conference” that linked journalists by satellite from four different locations around the world — Austria, Japan, the United States (Boston, Massachusetts) and England.

CSUF even got a worldwide plug on the program, which was sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor newspaper.

For three hours I sat in this science room along with about 25 other journalists of sorts, absorbing every word that was said. And when it was all over, I still didn't want to leave. I could’ve stayed there all day.

The main subject was one of particular interest to me and many colleagues in the news business — scrutinizing the global media’s own coverage of foreign and domestic events.

As you may have guessed, terrorism was the prime topic.

Officials from both in and out of the news field gave their views. University journalism students from around the globe were encouraged to call in their questions.

One girl from CSUF, this lost university somewhere in the midst of central California, got her inquiry broadcast across wavelengths all around the world. Her inquiry was: How does the murder of foreign correspondents by terrorists affect an American reporter’s coverage from abroad?

The answer was picked up by former John F. Kennedy press aide Pierre Salinger, who was in England. Salinger’s response was that more than anything else, it makes reporters more aware of their ties to home.

“It is so important for an American to keep the link with his own country,” Salinger replied.

(Now who says CSUF’s journalism department isn’t world renowned!)

Salinger of ABC television went on to discuss how terrorists
use the media to broadcast hijackings, bombings, kidnappings, killings.

“Yes, terrorists want to use the media, but so do governments. So does everybody,” he said. That doesn’t mean the media should stop covering such events.

“I don’t think the media is responsible for terrorism,” he said. If there was a total media blackout of terrorist activities, the problem would still exist, “except we wouldn’t know about it.”

Maybe more important than just reporting facts on such crisis coverage is the need to cover the reasoning behind the acts.

We need to “explain the roots of terrorism,” said Salinger. “I think all terrorism has the capacity to create a war. You can’t ignore that.”

But contrary to the picture I’ve painted here, Salinger wasn’t the only one whose brain was picked.

The program’s cast of characters also included other well-known names: Elizabeth Pond, Richard Nenneman and John Hoagland of the Christian Science Monitor; Richard Hottelet of CBS; syndicated columnists Georgie Anne Geyer and Edwin Newman; and Dr. Hans Blix of the International Atomic Energy Agency, among many others.

The world’s student journalism population also added that extra international touch, with calls coming in from universities in Topeka, Kansas; Paris, France; Cairo; New York; Tokyo; and yes, even Fresno, California.

Thinking back on the telecast, one of the most powerful impressions came during a series of TV footage. Film of last year’s TWA jetliner hijacking in Beirut was replayed, along with an audio monitor in which you could hear the pilot, John Testrake, urgently
telling watchtower officials to let the hijacked plane land in Beirut as per terrorist demands.

Another lasting impression was shots of the gorgeous Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria. It looked like everything in the room was made of pure gold.

But perhaps the most inspiring part of the conference came in the form of a quotation. In addition to being good journalists, a panelist said,
“We also need to be good citizens of the world. And that’s not just an abstract process.”

The author’s name slipped by me, but the quote remains ingrained in my mind. The message is simple, to the point and undisputedly true.

While the program seemed to end much too soon, it did leave me with a good feeling inside.

I remember thinking that maybe this crazy place we call the global village isn’t so big after all.