Written by Matthew Meyers (California Maritime Academy)
Edited by Aimee Casey (Diablo Valley College)
Faculty Advisor: Nolan Higdon (California State University, East Bay)
In November 2016, the corporate media covered the junk food news story “Toblerone changes its iconic shape and chocoholics go crazy” while the independent media covered “In the Fight Against Human Trafficking, Child Soldiers Get Ignored”. The junk food news story about Toblerone chocolate is non-newsworthy because it is a topical story about a trivial issue that centers on individual’s opinions of a brand of chocolate. However, the human trafficking story is news worthy because it highlights a legitimate problem facing the world today and the lack of response on behalf of the United States in its prevention.
In November 2016, the corporate media covered the junk food news story “Toblerone changes its iconic shape and chocoholics go crazy”. This story centers on the decision by Mondelez International to change the shape of its brand of chocolate to reduce the overall size. The decision was influenced by the increase in prices on ingredients, forcing the company to reduce the size while keeping the price the same. The change altered the triangular candy from 170 grams to 150 grams and increased the spacing between each piece. Responses to the change were also covered, featuring upset Americans and Europeans and their tweets. The change was announced in October but only noticed by consumers in November. One upset buyer responded as “disappointed and a little distressed”.
The corporate media dedicated a massive amount of coverage to the junk food news story “Toblerone changes its iconic shape and chocoholics go crazy”. Fox News followed a similar approach in story coverage discussing the company’s decision, the factors that led to the change and its defense as fans respond with disappointment. TIME also covered the story and pointed out that the company did not make the decision as a result of Brexit. BBC covered the story more extensively including the petition by the Members of the Scottish Parliament for the United Kingdom government to require the chocolate shape to be changed back with apologies issued. The request was met with mockery by Scottish Conservatives. The New York Times offered some historical context to the bar without any new information. The coverage of this story was covered by many other news sources including The Los Angeles Times, Business Insider, CNBC, NBC, The Huffington Post, The Sun, People and EOnline. The saturation of corporate coverage demonstrated the junk food aspect of this non-newsworthy story.
In November 2016, while the corporate media covered the junk food news story “Toblerone changes its iconic shape and chocoholics go crazy”, the independent outlet Open Society Foundations covered “In the Fight Against Human Trafficking, Child Soldiers Get Ignored”. In November 2016, Jeremy Ravinski and Lora Lumpe, writing for Open Society Foundations published “In the Fight Against Human Trafficking, Child Soldiers Get Ignored”. Ravinski and Lumpe’s article focused on the topic of human trafficking and the specific situation of child soldiers in regards to human trafficking. The article concentrates on the premise that the United States is not doing everything possible to combat the rise of child soldiers. In October, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that preventing human trafficking was not only moralistic but strategic when considering what would be in the best interest for the country. Over the last ten years, the United States has considered human trafficking in its foreign and domestic affairs. In response, laws have been enacted such as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which lists countries that allow human trafficking of all kinds and prevents those countries from receiving support beyond humanitarian aid, and the Child Solider Prevention Act (CSPA) which prevents the United States from funding countries that openly recruit children for their military.
The topic of child recruitment in military action in regard to human trafficking is important because it addresses an issue of human rights violation without full measures being taken to combat it. The aforementioned laws allow the President to waive this prohibition if it is in the nation’s best interest. Countries where this waive was used, in full or in part, include Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan. In addition to wavering commitment, the laws are problematic because they do not provide the victims of child soldiering support, rehabilitation, or visas to the United States for treatment. Currently, child militarism is not taken as seriously as sex and labor trafficking, and the victims are often neglected even by those who recognize the practice as a problem. The United States maintains the ability to withdraw funding, but continues to allow some of the national budget to support these countries. It is a problem from a humanitarian perspective as well as a fiscal one that needs to be addressed.
While many corporate news outlets choose to focus on topical news stories such as Toblerone’s chocolate change, they ignored important stories such as the child soldiers of human trafficking. Mr. Kerry’s statement reflects a rising discomfort with the United States and the indirect support of countries that use children in their military. If the media would cover this story like it covers candy, a change might be made, or at least, inspired.
Matthew Meyers Is from Granite Bay, California and am a senior in the Mechanical Engineering Major under the Coast Guard Licensing Program option at California State University Maritime Academy.