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Watching America
Jamais Cascio, 15 Jul 05

WatchingAmericaWebLogov6.gifIf the United States is the world's sole "hyperpower," does it really need to care much about how the people of other countries think about it? How you answer that question will go a long way towards predicting your response to Watching America.

Watching America is a website which offers, without commentary, news stories about the United States from the world's press. The list of sources it uses is impressive, and covers a significant portion of the world's nations. The non-English articles are translated by software, then cleaned up by native speakers and a former editor of the International Herald-Tribune. The Christian Science Monitor gives some details:

While the Internet has made access to foreign media only a click away, what makes especially powerful is its translations of foreign-language news into English. [...]

The distinction may seem subtle. But news organizations such as Al Jazeera put out different material for an English-speaking audience than for an Arabic-speaking audience. With this website, "you're getting to see what, in some cases, your enemies are saying to each other in their own languages about you," [site founder Robin] Koerner says. "That gives you insights which you cannot get from what they offer in English."

Few of the stories are particularly flattering to the US. Many are highly critical, mostly of foreign policies but sometimes of American domestic events. Policies towards the Middle East come in for the greatest amount of criticism, but there are pieces about issues of which few Americans are likely even aware.

Although the site doesn't comment on the articles explicitly, a question remains about how it chooses the articles -- and source newspapers -- for translation. An initial examination shows a decent selection of journals across a mainstream spectrum (e.g., in the UK, they pull from both the Guardian and the Economist), but few recognizably non-mainstream sources. Still, this looks to be an extremely valuable site for getting a picture of how American actions are viewed abroad. Happily, they provide an RSS feed of their content!

(Via Sciencegate)

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Lovely stuff. There's definitely bias in the sources they choose, but there always will be unless they include all the boring stories along with the interesting ones.

Posted by: Tom Edwards on 15 Jul 05

Isn't there a vital link between America's uptake of principles of sustainable development and the success of "brand America" in the years to come? My own involvements in the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development shock my european colleagues, many of whom should no better about lumping all Americans into one big evil empire. Let's see what kind of impact we can have on Watching America in the years ahead.

Posted by: Will Duggan on 18 Jul 05

Typo — they should know better. Sorry. Thanks

Posted by: Will Duggan on 18 Jul 05



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