CHIANG MAI, Thailand — As one of the millions of television viewers glued to his screen trying to keep pace with the overwhelming flow of international news, I often find myself pondering the pluses and minuses of present-day advances in computers, electronics and information technology. The other day I happened be in such a philosophical mood when my eye caught the letter from a Japanese reader wondering whether our current enthusiasm for cell phones signifies in reality a disturbing inability “to develop close ties with others in conventional ways.”

Indeed a pertinent point, but I would prefer to direct the question to the way today’s international media giants, such as CNN and the BBC, report the news.

I would like to stress from the outset that we should certainly appreciate the sacrifices made by the scores of far-flung correspondents who expose themselves to strain and danger. It is one thing to watch news bulletins from our armchairs, and quite another to rush to a high-risk area to follow or accompany a moving army column. The dedication with which these journalists toil in harsh and perilous environments so that their channels can bring “the story,” with a formerly unimaginable immediacy, is indisputably praiseworthy.

Still, one must examine contrasting points as well. I do not intend to repeat here the oft-criticized predilection for highlighting scenes of violence, blood and suffering, etc. I realize that news channels strive to reflect reality and that reality is not always rosy. I am suggesting, though, that the general framework for reporting international news be reconsidered.

If the top producers of news bulletins were willing to exchange chairs for a while with the average viewer throughout the world, they might develop a different outlook:

First, not everyone is happy with the intermingling of “news” with “business developments.” Undeniably both are important, but a certain separation would not be harmful, since interests of people vary and not everyone is ready to accept such a “globalized” picture.

Second, the over-repetitive style of presentation — headlines, then a synopsis followed by a more expanded version of the news topic — may be good for viewers just tuning in, but it is rather annoying for those who do so at the top of the hour. Besides, there is often repetition by the correspondent who follows the main announcer.

Third, repetition of the same visual footage to accompany a news item is not only unnecessary but annoying.

Fourth, as competition between the major channels intensifies, there is an obvious rush to break news with evidently incomplete reporting, often via inaudible videophone links. While this should not be dismissed altogether, it might be worthwhile if producers provided “straight news bulletins,” using all available facts that have been properly sorted out thus far, at certain times of the day or night.

I recall that BBC radio broadcasts used to alternate between bulletins with analyses by correspondents and plain reports. What we have now is a kind “stress transfusion” to the viewer, as announcers, correspondents and various commentators agonize over the details of a story whose elements have yet to be confirmed.

Again, let me iterate that I do not underestimate input from specialists, as news items do indeed need to be examined from various angles. What I am simply trying to say is that many viewers may prefer to listen to and watch verified facts and pictures first and then reach their own conclusions. They may switch on later to listen to commentaries, but they would like to have the opportunity at times to be exposed to the simple “facts” of global news without embellishments or commentary.

Finally, the trend to refer viewers to the channel’s Web site for more information may irritate those viewers who don’t have such access. Those who do have personal computers are well aware of the possibility and do not need to be reminded so often.

Maybe I belong to a minority that cannot move with the speed of the times. I happen to have belonged to a generation who, as children, used to follow the news mainly through the agonizing expressions on the faces of elders struggling to grasp the horrors of World War II while glued to an antiquated radio.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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