Mehrdad Kia on Foreign Reporting

Dr. Mehrdad Kia is the Associate Provost for International Programs at The University of Montana. He teaches students about the Middle East and Central Asia and has strong opinions about reporting from the United States on those regions:

• There is a general sense of ignorance about other cultures and the complexities of these societies.

• We tend to resort to very simple adjectives and oversimplify foreign news.

• Iran is a country of about 73 million people with three thousand years of history. All of that becomes a square of only hundreds or maybe thousands when there is a gathering or protest.


• Foreign journalists don’t learn the native languages. Learning the language could break down walls, bring understanding and even respect to the reporter and those they report on.

• News creates “others” rather than looking at them as equally human with the same issues we are facing. These wrong versions of news stories “dehumanize” people.

United States vs. Middle East

• The Islamic media is far worse than American media because it is government controlled and there is a very strict censorship mechanism. Being a journalist in these types of countries is like being a “mouthpiece of a government.”

• The government will spin the media to show their attitude about the United States and will show only the best or worst news depending on their stance.

Coverage of Egypt’s uprising:

• Many United States reporters equated it with Tunisia, and few voices in print reminded us that each country is very different.

• They were caught with fears about (Hosni) Mubarak failing and the Muslim Brotherhood seizing power. What they did not know is that the Brotherhood supports democracy.

Quality of foreign reporting:

• The Internet has greatly helped in providing audiences with correct news. We have many more options to look at. In this case, the more the merrier, but we do need to watch out for trash coming through the floodgates.

• Despite budget cuts, print media is also increasingly doing a much better job.

• There also needs to be more in-depth coverage so these complex areas can be much better understood.

• Future journalists need to be serious, conscientious, committed and have courage.