With major terrorist attacks coming in rapid succession lately, it’s time to take a closer look at what causes a particular attack to get extensive media coverage. Some people complained that the recent attack in Istanbul didn’t get nearly the coverage of the Brussels attack, just like they complained when ruthless attacks in Nigeria didn’t get the coverage of the Paris attacks.
I don’t think there is one answer to this problem, and it’s not a full-blown media conspiracy. It seems that coverage, be it on cable news or on social media, is largely based on the “me” test. How much are these victims of terrorism like me? Are they westerners I might have vacationed near? Do we look alike or have much in common?
Sadly, the farther the victims get from a reflection of ourselves, the less we pay attention. There are complex issues of race, culture and national identity that determine who and what gets attention. And this doesn’t just apply to coverage of terrorism, unfortunately it seems that international news coverage follows this same pattern. Editors and news organizations largely go for what is popular, and what is popular is fed by editors and news organizations— a cycle that is only occasionally broken by social media or troop deployments. (Remember, you can see more of my work and go behind the scenes here.)