The ability of the news media to ‘both reflect and construct relationships’1 is widely acknowledged.2 Despite continued debate over the potency and predictability of media effects, in the context of increased urbanization and globalization the news media provide what is for many their only source of information about events outside their immediate experience but with the potential to impact their lives.3 The more distant, exotic or unfamiliar the subject, the more people rely on the news media for information, explanation and analysis. As a result, when it comes to international affairs, news consumers are aptly described by Gavin as ‘dependent “observers” rather than active “participants”’,4 while the news media are acknowledged to be ‘a first-rate competitor for the number-one position as international image-former’.5