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Digital, social media separate international students from homeland news

Published April 11th, 2014

The explosion of digital media has provided international students many ways to obtain news from their homelands, however, students tiptoe between actively or passively receiving news and information online.

University of Wisconsin-River Falls Journalism Professor Patricia Berg said, “The audiences (of social media) are what I would call, ‘hyper-fragmented’, so you get only topics that you’re interested in.”

Berg said that readers make very specific choices on the content they consume through social media. Therefore a declining interest in global news has affected how international news is presented in the mainstream media for international students to receive.

Young people (18 to 29 year olds) account for about a third of Facebook news consumers, according to research done by the Pew Research Center in 2013.

According to the International Student Services on campus, there are currently 165 international students enrolled in UWRF.

Bismarc Silva, 22, an agriculture junior from Brazil, who is currently on an exchange student program in UWRF. He states that he gets most information on the news back in Brazil through “discussions” on Facebook, now that he’s in the U.S. Ichiko Mori, 21, from Japan, and a junior in the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program, said that she follows media organizations on both Twitter and Facebook to keep herself updated on Japanese news.

According to Berg, the news that is shown on Facebook are the popular ones selected by the audience’s choice of preference. Therefore, it is more difficult for anyone to get a hold of “non-trending” news without doing some “digging” for it, especially for global news. She also said that she agreed on how the declining market of international news ratings has affected the need and use of foreign correspondents, given the fact that many news from abroad are “second-hand data,” gathered through mainstream news organizations instead of having correspondents observe and report on first-hand information.

Jennifer Chen, 21, from Taiwan, is a senior in business administration, said that she usually learns about news back at home through an application from a daily newspaper in Taiwan called Apple Daily. However, since she is in America, Chen said that she also pays attention to U.S. media coverage on Taiwan.

“I feel like they’re really neutral towards cross-strait affairs between Taiwan and China,” Chen said on how treaties and pacts were negotiated and signed between both Taiwan and China. “Their perspective is quite blurry.”

Gilson Maia, 21, is from Brazil and majors in animal science., Gilson Maia, a 21-year old Brazilian, said that he learns about the news from mainstream Brazilian press websites. Maia questioned how American media reports news on his homeland. Maia states that the “struggles” that Brazil is going through with the World Cup are merely pure “speculation” from the U.S. press. According to Maia, negative news such as protests from people is favorably reported on the World Cup through global media.

“When the media notice that, they show only protests, not the party of investment,” Maia said. Which, in his point of view, Maia said, meant that no one was focusing on the benefits of the World Cup for Brazil at all.

As for Japanese degree-seeking student Miho Fukuoka, 22, a senior in the UWRF TESOL program, social media is not a direct source for news either. According to Fukuoka, she obtains her news through an app called SmartNews. This application allows her to browse through multiple Japanese news organizations. For her, learning about home is important, so she tries her best to update her information on Japanese news events. Yet, albeit her 1.5-year stay in the U.S., Fukuoka said that U.S. media and culture have not influenced her perspective towards Japanese news events.

“I listen to other perspectives, and compare them to mine.” Fukuoka said. Fukuoka emphasized that the perspective U.S. media provides is only one of the many perspectives she considers in her mind.

Students like Fukuoka and Maia, who live in countries with a much more liberal media, and are exposed to global media, hold on to their own national perspective when it comes to news events. However, this might not be entirely accurate for some students here. Joomin Huang, 28, is a South Korean student, who is currently studying as a junior in the UWRF music department, said that ever since the present Korean government took strict control over Korean media, it has been hard for him to obtain “accurate” news, which eventually lead him to a less active approach towards current events in his country.

“I usually just read news from the website (Naver.com, an equivalent to Yahoo and MSN in Korea),” Huang said. “My Facebook is over-warmed, so I don’t have enough time to collect them.”

“The U.S. make news about Korea protest, about president…but in Korea, they just prevent that news,” Huang said. “I don’t know which one is true, or which one is not.”

Xiang Jue, a 20-year-old Chinese elementary education major, shares similar conflicts between Chinese and U.S. press as well.

“The Chinese press talks about how great China is, but sometimes I wonder if that’s entirely true,” Jue said. This is a result of studying in the U.S. and learning how the U.S media usually illustrates China and its experience in Communism. “This makes me more keen to learn about what others have to report on the negative sides of our country.”

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