The media isn’t always to blame

Following the atrocious attacks in Brussels that resulted in the deaths of 31 people, there has been a vast and understandable outpouring of sympathy.

Hashtags were quickly set up, memes of defiance swamped social media and the attacks received blanket coverage in the media.

Once the initial shock of the explosions subsided, a number of articles emerged criticising the lack of coverage dedicated to the Ankara bombings that had occurred just days before.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because the same outcry arose following the November attacks in Paris.

It is undeniable that attacks in western countries receive wider coverage than those elsewhere.

However, to claim, as many have, that these attacks receive no coverage at all, or that this is purely the fault of the media, is highly misleading.

In the wake of the Ankara attacks a large number of in depth articles and TV reports were published and broadcast. The reason you may not know about these articles is simple, nobody read them.

It’s a sad fact, but news from non-western countries, no matter how tragic or shocking, tends to go largely unnoticed by western readers.

Whilst this is depressing, it’s not that surprising. We simply know and understand more about Paris and Brussels than we do about Ankara. Chances are that you have been to either Paris or Brussels, you’ll almost certainly know someone who has.

The same cannot be said for Ankara. Therefore an attack in Brussels or Paris feels more personal than one in a country we have a limited connection to.

Although it’s easy to share a meme or a worthy article criticising the western media, odds are that many, if not the majority, of those sharing them wouldn’t have read the coverage anyway.

Martin Belam, the Social and New Formats Editor for the Guardian, today published figures for the Guardian’s coverage of the Lahore attacks.

The Guardian, like many other news organisations, has the Lahore attacks as their main story. The attacks, which have killed at least 70 people, are undoubtedly the top story in the world today.

Despite this, the attacks are really struggling to attract readers. In fact, the Guardian’s main Lahore story was only just attracting more readers than a year old story about Cee-Lo Green.

Despite the fact that broadcasters and newspapers are leading with Lahore, there has been an outcry against a perceived lack of coverage. It seems that if a story is not in someone’s news feed, they doubt it even exists.

The truth is that there is not a lot of money in modern journalism and publications and broadcasters have to make a trade off between newsworthiness and the public’s interests.

For the Ankara attacks, it would have been extremely expensive for broadcasters to send film crews and presenters to Turkey, particularly if a lot of viewers would simply change the channel if the story came on.

Compare that to Brussels where reporters could see the story in their London office in the morning and be reporting live from the scene by lunchtime.

This is not to say that western journalists are faultless when it comes to foreign reporting, simply acknowledging that a lot of the fault rests on the Western audience.


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