TSA scanners: An overlooked story?

Foreign Policy’s list of the 10 Stories You Missed in 2010, compiled and written by yours truly, when on-line yesterday. Amid a number of stories from Indonesia, to the Southwest U.S. border to Central Asia that may be news to many readers, is one that you’ve most likely heard something about in recent weeks: the ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Foreign Policy's list of the 10 Stories You Missed in 2010, compiled and written by yours truly, when on-line yesterday. Amid a number of stories from Indonesia, to the Southwest U.S. border to Central Asia that may be news to many readers, is one that you've most likely heard something about in recent weeks: the growing backlash to the full-body x-ray scanners in airports

No, I haven't been in a coma for the last month. In my defense, when I put this list together almost a month ago, this was a percolating but still little-covered story, written about sporadically in daily newspapers but mostly in tech-focused outlets like CNET and BoingBoing. In my opinion, the international dimensions of the story -- Muslim women being barred from flights for refusing the scanners at Heathrow, Italy's decision, after several months of testing, to abandon the scanners altogether, peeping-toms at Nigeria's main airport, is still largely overlooked in the U.S.

Working on the list, and watching TSA scanners become the biggest news story in the universe shortly after it went to print, has been an interesting opportunity to reflect on how some issues become big stories in an era of increasing access to information. All the stories on the list were reported somewhere and a number of them, in my opinion, could easily have become major topics of public debate. (Though admittedly, the TSA story is a perfect storm of sexual overtones, anti-big government rhetoric, and fear of terrorism that's hard to beat.)

Foreign Policy’s list of the 10 Stories You Missed in 2010, compiled and written by yours truly, when on-line yesterday. Amid a number of stories from Indonesia, to the Southwest U.S. border to Central Asia that may be news to many readers, is one that you’ve most likely heard something about in recent weeks: the growing backlash to the full-body x-ray scanners in airports

No, I haven’t been in a coma for the last month. In my defense, when I put this list together almost a month ago, this was a percolating but still little-covered story, written about sporadically in daily newspapers but mostly in tech-focused outlets like CNET and BoingBoing. In my opinion, the international dimensions of the story — Muslim women being barred from flights for refusing the scanners at Heathrow, Italy’s decision, after several months of testing, to abandon the scanners altogether, peeping-toms at Nigeria’s main airport, is still largely overlooked in the U.S.

Working on the list, and watching TSA scanners become the biggest news story in the universe shortly after it went to print, has been an interesting opportunity to reflect on how some issues become big stories in an era of increasing access to information. All the stories on the list were reported somewhere and a number of them, in my opinion, could easily have become major topics of public debate. (Though admittedly, the TSA story is a perfect storm of sexual overtones, anti-big government rhetoric, and fear of terrorism that’s hard to beat.)

As in the case of the WikiLeaks dump, where the function of reporters following the story is less about finding out information than

ferreting out what, within the quarter of a million cables, is actually interesting, the sheer volume of international news available to readers today makes following the news a task of sorting and choosing rather than seeking. As I discussed in a recent piece on Google News, this makes it increasingly important to for readers to understand the inherent biases and backgrounds of the sources they trust.  

But the thought of the number of interesting stories that are hiding in plain sight waiting for large audiences to find them should be an exciting one for interested readers. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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