Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Paris Attacks Gained More Coverage Than Other Atrocities

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Paris Attacks Gained More Coverage Than Other Atrocities

Article excerpt

Byline: Roy Greenslade media analysis

WHY should a massacre in France get far greater media coverage in Britain than massacres in the Lebanon, Iraq and Kenya? Last Thursday, 44 people died in suicide bombings in Beirut. In August, 67 people were killed by a truck bomb in Sadr City in north-eastern Iraq. In April, 147 people, most of them students, were shot dead at Garissa University in north-eastern Kenya.

All of these horrific incidents were reported by the British media. But they didn't get much more than a newspaper headline and a couple of minutes on TV and radio bulletins. None received the wall-to-wall coverage granted to the Paris attacks.

One obvious reason is proximity. France is close to home. It is our closest continental neighbour and we are also linked through our membership of the European Union. Our former enemy from across the Channel long ago became an ally and although we do not share a language, we do share a political and social culture born in the age of enlightenment.

It is also undeniable, if somewhat unpalatable to many sensitive people, that mass deaths in faraway places, whether they are due to terrorism or natural disaster, rarely engender big UK media interest. There are odd exceptions, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. But its effect was unprecedented, with more than 300,000 deaths.

Some large earthquakes do grab attention, including those in Chile and Haiti in 2010 and Japan in 2011. However, most news is local and audience interest (or lack of it) dictates decisions made by editors. In pre-internet days, it could be argued that they made their calls based on hunches about the readers' and viewers' appetites.

Now, with the availability of online metrics, it is possible for them to gauge exactly the level of audience engagement with any given story. …

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