A prominent issue in today’s media centers on the lack of and selective news coverage of important global issues that can affect our daily lives. For example, in the light of the Paris attacks that took place in November of 2015, the media failed to report on multiple terrorist attacks that had taken place around the same time in South Asia and the Middle East. Similarly, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Irma that affected parts of the United States in September of 2017, there was a significant difference in news coverage that took place in comparison with that of Hurricane Maria that devastated Puerto Rico a short while after.
This type of poor media coverage is an issue I find quite interesting because of the consequences it can have on the general public such as misinformation and a deficiency of educating society. It appears that events that take place in the Western world stand on a higher scale of coverage in relation to many pivotal occurrences elsewhere.
Furthermore, I aim to resolve this by bringing about awareness to this sense of hierarchy in news coverage and enlightening the public on its consequences. It is crucial to shed light on this issue because it affects our society as a whole. The more we are exposed to all global issues that take place outside of the United States, the more society can stay informed and aware.
On November 13, 2015 ISIS executed a series of terrorist attacks on France, leaving one hundred and thirty people dead and hundreds more in critical condition.
News outlets such as BBC, CNN, CBS, NBC and several others covered this tragedy as well as holding specials to support the victims of the attacks. Support was also given through social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, Twitter started the hash tag #porteouverte which would translate to “open door” in English in order to provide accessible information to victims in need of shelter and Facebook turned on its safety check for those in vicinity of the attacks to let their family and friends know they were safe. However all these outlets failed to show the same compassion for South Asia, and the Middle East. The Washington Post released a statement stating “Since the beginning of 2015, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia have seen nearly fifty times more deaths from terrorism than Europe and the Americas.” On April 2, 2015 Al-Shabab militants killed one hundred forty seven people at a university in Kenya, on June 26, 2015 ISIS took responsibility for shooting thirty-nine people in Tunisia. ISIS also killed one hundred and thirty people in Iraq on July 17, 2015, fifteen people in Saudi Arabia on August 6, 2015 and forty-three people in Lebanon on November 12, 2015. These attacks were just several of the hundreds committed in the Middle East, unfortunately media such as CNN, CBS, NBC and others failed to report on these attacks. Social media outlets also did not show support or compassion like they did when France was under attack. France and America have been allies for decades; in 2015 after the attacks President Obama released a statement stating, “Once again we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.’ He also said “We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance that the government and the people of France need to respond. France is our oldest ally. The French people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States time and again. And we want to be very clear that we stand together with them in the fight against terrorism and extremism.” Furthermore as tragic as these attacks were in France, they happen all over the world and aren’t given as much attention as a nation that has close ties to America or the presidency therefore leaving the American people unaware of tragedies’ in Asia and the Middle East.
In 2017 three hurricanes hit the United States, Harvey, Irma and Maria. Harvey hit Texas, Irma hit Florida, and Maria hit Puerto Rico. All storms were categorized as a level four hurricane, however Hurricane Maria carried winds up to one hundred and fifty miles per hour, which was higher than both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. According to an analysis on Frontline Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico all received supplies such as food, water and tarps however Puerto Rico received the least and was affected the most by this natural disaster. President Trump rushed to get to Texas and Florida to show his support for the two states, however he waited two weeks after Hurricane Maria to go to Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans are U.S. Citizens however they cannot vote in the presidential election, which is reason to believe Trump, didn’t rush to their side as a leader and president because they have no effect on his presidency. The media also lacked to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico until Trump got involved. According to Washington post data from a media cloud project at MIT’s Media Lab was able to analyze media outlets and reported that there were 19,214 stories online about Hurricane Harvey, 17,338 stories about Hurricane Irma and 6,591 stories about Hurricane Maria. They were also able to analyze the language used in the stories about Hurricane Maria; they concluded that it was more focused from a political standpoint rather than the floods, and deaths within the U.S territory. Also the New York Times a well-known media mentioned both Harvey and Irma on the front page but failed to make Hurricane Maria a front page or even a headline.
I have found that various journalists that have used substantial evidence to defend their claims have explored the topic of “selective/lack of news coverage,” Some have even used this problem in contemporary media to demonstrate how selective news coverage can be used to shape and influence public opinion about various aspects of society. For example, a group of professors from the University of Pennsylvania conducted a case study last year that examined whether media coverage affects public attitude on the national economy or whether public opinion has an impact on media coverage. They took into account factors such as “public inattention, selective information seeking, and the fragmented media market” (Hopkins, Kim &Kim, 2017). This case study would be useful in understanding how selective news coverage can have a profound influence and possibly hinder the way society views various global issues. Similarly, British news outlet, the Guardian, conducted a study that surveyed students on their opinion and explanation of why humanitarian issues receive varying levels of support. Students look into how demographic details of issues such as age, sex, socio-economic status, ethnicity, and more influence international and national spectators as well as what is reported by the news (The Guardian, 2014). This article was able to utilize my research when exploring the idea of “western bias” and what issues receive the most and accurate coverage. Another group of professors from varying universities conducted a case study in which they analyzed selection bias in media coverage through demonstrations that took place in Washington in 1982 and 1991. This article covers the “problems of selection bias” and “selection bias mechanisms”(McCarthy, McPhail & Smith, 1996). This is quite useful towards my findings because it will help us understand the logistics that take place in terms of how issues are selected to be covered and how these tactics are proven to be detrimental to society as a whole. In conclusion, the bulk of my research is derived from journal articles and case studies that have discussed the topic of lack of and selective news coverage.
To understand a lack of and selective news coverage within the media, its important to understand how a media outlet can choose to be biased. According to Media Bias/Fact check, there exist five types of biases. Media sources that follow left bias are moderately to strongly bias toward a liberal cause; a left-center bias is slightly, moderately biased to liberal causes. The least biased category has the most minimal bias within media and is considered to be the most credible sources. The right-center bias is slightly to moderately conservative in bias, and the right bias is strongly biased toward conservative causes. Every Media Outlet favors a certain political party therefore they use wording that would trigger emotions that a liberal or a conservative would favor to further influence society and shape public opinion. The Washington Post ranked media outlets from liberal to conservative based on their audiences; they were able to conclude liberals prefer The New Yorker and CNN as a media outlet where as conservatives favor Fox News. Media favoring a certain political party and picking a bias then leads to omission, selection and placement. By the media not reporting thoroughly on Hurricane Maria until Trump showed his involvement we are able to see media favoring a conservative outlook. Even in regards to the attacks on France we are able to see selection bias every media and social outlet were reporting and supporting French Victims, but what about the victims in Lebanon a day before?
I have found that most of the case studies and journal entries confirm findings by other scholars concerning the topic of selective/lack of news coverage. However, the case study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania offers an interesting take on the relationship between media and public opinion and the way in which they influence how the economy is perceived by society. The case study concludes that there are not “obvious cases where changes in media coverage preceded shifts in public perception”. In fact, in this particular case study, public opinion shifts prior to news coverage, indicating that there is in fact, not a correlation between public opinion and media coverage in terms of the economy (Hopkins, Kim &Kim, 2017). This case study explores the relationship between how public opinion varies among domestic issues versus global issues, and whether there is in fact a correlation between news coverage and public opinion on global issues. To further investigate this claim, the survey conducted by British news outlet, the Guardian, contains evidence that confirm findings by other scholars on the issue of the lack of public attention and news coverage and reveals new information on how varying humanitarian disasters are neglected.. The survey also explores the lack of aid given to these countries due to such little media attention. Thus, this journal article illuminates how lack of news coverage is a crucial issue in contemporary media. Last but not least, the case study conducted by a group of professors pertaining to selection bias in media coverage of the demonstrations that took place in Washington in in 1982 and 1991 show that there is significant variation in how the two demonstrations were covered. As a result, their study confirms that there is a “media agenda and process on how public dissent is portrayed and selected for reporting”(McCarthy, McPhail & Smith, 1996). Thus, this article confirms the idea of selection bias and ultimately can indicate the way in which such selection bias can be detrimental to society.