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The news that keeps us Onward On!

The Carroll News

The news that keeps us Onward On!

The Carroll News

Forgotten battles: Unraveling the absence of Nagorno-Karabakh in U.S. media

Understanding why the ongoing conflict over Armenia and Azerbaijan is not gaining American media coverage
Refugees fleeing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict find shelter, depicting the human toll of a crisis overlooked by mainstream US media
Raimond Spekking
Refugees fleeing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict find shelter, depicting the human toll of a crisis overlooked by mainstream US media

For the past several months, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous province located in the middle of these two countries. The region is facing what the Armenian government claims to be an ethnic cleansing by the largely Muslim population of Azerbaijan.

While news about this conflict is prevalent on media agencies like BBC, major U.S. news corporations like NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and FOX News have not brought this issue to the attention of the American public. This leaves religious-based news agencies like the Catholic News Agency and OSV News to cover this alone.

Many people are asking a simple question- why is the mainstream U.S. media not covering this particular issue?

Dr. Mary Beadle, a professor in the Tim Russert Department of Communication at John Carroll University, claims that part of the reason why U.S. media outlets are failing to cover the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Europe is due to the inward, domestic focus that these companies have regarding global affairs.

“In general, the U.S. media only covers far-off wars if there is a specific connection to the U.S. audience,” Beadle told The Carroll News.

Beadle contends that when it comes to the media that many national news agencies portray, as long as it has a connection to the conflict, they will cover it. Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan have connections to America, so it would make sense that they would not investigate a topic like this.

Experts in global and mass communication agree with this logic as well. Dr. Brent Brossmann, Chair of the Tim Russert Department of Communication, stated that this is because the national media industry knows that Americans do not like anything that doesn’t pertain to the United States; they are choosing not to cover the conflict in mainstream media because it does not attract their primary audience.

“While this is grossly unfair to say because we should care about lives everywhere and peace everywhere, most Americans wouldn’t care that much about two relatively small countries about which they know very little,” he said.

Another explanation for why this particular issue is not getting American coverage is because there are already other conflicts that are taking up airtime. Dr. Paul Murphy, Chair of the Institute of Catholic Studies at JCU, stated that this could be the justification for the lack of coverage.

“The broader question of why there is not so much coverage of it relates to why the media and we Americans on the whole are oblivious to many places of conflict. And with so many conflicts going on simultaneously, the attention of the public may be stretched,” Murphy said.

While others might blame the media for not portraying the Armenian and Azerbaijani conflict, some say that this motive by American news and media corporations is more about keeping peace by not choosing to involve themselves with this issue. Dr. Semiha Topal, the Director of the Tuohy Center for Interreligious Understanding, believes that the motive is to make the United States seem as neutral about the situation as possible.

“The lack of coverage is strategic. It does not give any political advantage to the United States,” Topal said

If this is the case, it would make sense as to why there is an extreme lack of coverage and information about the conflict from an American perspective.

“The U.S. divides the world into good guys (our allies) and bad guys (our enemies). Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan is an enemy, but neither is a treaty ally either,” Brossmann said, “So, we don’t have close relations with either, we don’t have strong incentives in either, and this also means that the US isn’t going to get too involved.”

With so many different reasons why this conflict is not being covered by news and media agencies across the United States, there is one thing that all should keep in mind: it does not change the fact that there is a need to look outward at multiple sources to understand what is going on in the world that American society is a part of.

“We all talk about a global culture, but the reality is we are still very inward-focused,” Beadle said. “The ability to connect and understand other people would build for a more peaceful world.”

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