Transnational Identities in the News Media

Writing from a desk in the Smithtown library

One entry on contemporary London and its representation of transnational identities in the news media (read a newspaper or watch the telly!).

Despite my efforts to remember to buy a newspaper while in London, inevitably I forgot all about it. In order to post about how the media reports on transnational identities, I’m using articles from The Telegraph, a newspaper from the UK.

The first article I studied is called “Cambodia election: Workers hoping for a brighter future as country poised to go to polls” which is about the unfair wages and working conditions textile workers face in Cambodia. Most of the workers interview are women (because most of the people working under these conditions are women) and the first two thirds of the article is made up of first hand accounts of the injustices these workers face. The amount of pay the workers receive a month isn’t enough to live on and the workdays are disgustingly long, with a minuscule break in between.

But with about a third of the article left, there is a positive spin on the atrocities mentioned above. Even though “few observers expect Mr Hun to lose his grip on power, thanks to the CPP’s total control of the media and its alleged manipulation of electoral rolls,” “the garment workers’ support for the CNRP is likely to have a positive effect on their future.” The article was titled “workers hoping for a brighter future as country poised to go to polls,” but the journalist has made it clear that this sort of change isn’t really in the cards for these workers. Ms Phy is reportedly “hopeful that things may change,” yet her last statement that concludes the article doesn’t exactly feel that way:

We don’t know how much people in the West pay for the clothes we make. But we know they’re expensive. We don’t think it’s fair that we get so little for making the clothes and they get sold for so much more than that. It’s not just.

Our reporter claims that Ms Phy and the other workers are hopeful, but the evidence presented in this final quote and the other firsthand accounts throughout the piece seem to suggest otherwise. Again, looking at the title, one would expect the piece and the people involved to actually express some hope. Why is the journalist, reporting for a newspaper in the UK that is mainly read by people in the UK and not Cambodia, trying so hard to make us believe that these people have hope? Thinking about transnational identities and their representation, the workers in Cambodia are being portrayed to an audience of outsiders (those in the UK) as people facing many injustices, yet have a beacon of hope. This terribly life these people are leading has a silver lining to it and, regardless of the fact that the corrupt government official is most likely going to stay in charge and still oppress these people, there is still hope. Most of the article that reports the harsh, unfair circumstances of the Cambodian textiles workers seems to become less important because of the presence of the word hope. The common reader in the UK is meant to read this article, sympathize with the Cambodians, then finish the article feelings hopeful, satisfied even. This representation of transnational identities speaks to Englishness, in a sense. The injustices of the “other,” the “outsider” are being used to instill a sense of hope and pride. Remember that this is only one representation of transnational identities in the media; other news media might reveal other motives or bias! This one representation suggested that the purpose of the article wasn’t necessarily to show the truth, but had a greater purpose of being written for the English and filling them with hope.

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