The missing physical component must play a part. The western mind's increasingly stimulated to a far greater degree than the body. Everything's coming in as abstracts and concepts.
I'm going to ignore the issue of the broad claim regarding the 'western brain'.
Of course reading media reports is more than just vicarious to events. They are reports. You re-gard the event. You're not part of it.
But are they 'abstract and concepts'? I think media has moved away from concrete tone (Economist for instance) and more moved to a very emotional narrative heavy 'human angle'.
But this in itself is, I'd argue, a further step away from events and more to do with mediated 'empathy'.
For example, a 20 minute read about a certain person's crisis, although it feels empathic, might not be. In dire situations many simply do not have time to feel, to think, to ruminate on the emotions of it all - at all. This is, I argue, one of the ironies of 'human angle' media narratives - that what one takes as empathy is actually a synthetic narrative, diegetic, a mirage.