Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Quick update on coverage from Spain in the American press: CNN has been reporting that 1. Aznar is going to speak before the Parliamentary commission investigating the 3-11 bombings and the government's response thereto and 2. ten Pakistanis have been arrested in Barcelona, accused of forming a low-level organized crime syndicate dealing in phony IDs and p[assports and pirate CDs and DVDs. They are apparently not linked to Al Qaeda but allegedly have provided money and logistical support to radical Islamist groups. The KC Star has a paragraph on the arrests.

Comment on the KC Star: Its coverage of local issues--city and state government, mostly, and local occurrences--is first-rate, considerably more detailed than what you find in Spain. Its coverage of national issues is a good bit more sketchy and mostly depends on the wire services. It's not a bad summary, but you'd want to, at the very least, read one of the national newsmagazines and/or the Sunday New York Times and/or the Wall Street Journal and/or listen to talk radio and/or watch TV news, in addition, as far as the mass media goes. As far as international issues, there's really not very much and it's all off the AP wire. Exception: Iraq, where the coverage is both more detailed and less prejudiced than what you get in Europe. For anything else about the rest of the world, the Kansas City Star is not sufficient.

I suppose this has everything to do with local folks' priorities. The KC metro area is about 1.5 million people; there are some 2.5 million people in all of Kansas and like 4.5 million in Missouri. Add up Missouri and Kansas and you get an entity very like Catalonia in population, though much greater in size. Missouri and Kansas put together would be a medium-small European country in population that batted well above its weight economically, and that's about most people's everyday scope. Chicago? Denver? Dallas? Those places are beyond our local scope.

Since American government is much more decentralized than European governments generally are--that is, most decisions about education, police and fire protection, public utilities, government social services, criminal and civil law, banking and insurance regulation, public and private transport, intrastate commerce regulation, and some taxes are made at the state or local level with between some and no federal input--people tend to be a good bit more concerned about state and local news than they would be in Europe. National news is also very important, since the federal government is responsible for a lot of stuff, too. International news just isn't so big a deal except for Iraq and other fronts of the War on Terrorism to most people around here, which is why coverage in the KC Star is so limited. Maybe a proper comparison would be, for media purposes, that a US state (in our case, two states since we're right on the line) is comparable to a European country, that the federal government is comparable to the European Union, and that you don't hear much about the rest of the world either in the US or Europe unless something big happens there.

Note for confused people about local geography: Kansas City is in Missouri, right on the Kansas state line, where the Kansas River flows into the Missouri River. The rivers were named long before there were any white permanent settlers in the area. Missouri became a state in 1821, and Kansas City was founded about that time, though it didn't become important until 1850 or so. Kansas didn't become a territory until about 1850, and it became a state in 1861. So the story is that the municipality of Kansas City was named for the Kansas River and has nothing to do with the state of Kansas. Later, as Kansas City, Mo., grew, its metro area spilled over into Kansas. There is a city called Kansas City, Kansas, about 1/5 the size of KCMO, across the state line. (Most of it is a real hellhole.) South of KCK is Johnson County, Kansas, where many of the middle-class suburbs are, including Leawood.

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