Why Do Some Terrorist Attacks Receive More Media Attention Than Others?

Kearns, E.M., Betus, A. & Lemieux, A. "Why Do Some Terrorist Attacks Receive More Media Attention Than Others?" Justice Quarterly, Forthcoming

53 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2017 Last revised: 17 Apr 2018

Erin Kearns

University of Alabama

Allison Betus

Georgia State University

Anthony Lemieux

Georgia State University - Global Studies Institute

Date Written: April 2, 2018

Abstract

Terrorist attacks often dominate news coverage as reporters seek to provide the public with information. Yet, not all incidents receive equal attention. Why do some terrorist attacks receive more media coverage than others? We argue that perpetrator religion is the largest predictor of news coverage, while target type, being arrested, and fatalities will also impact coverage. We examined news coverage from LexisNexis Academic and CNN.com for all terrorist attacks in the United States between 2006 and 2015 (N=136). Controlling for target type, fatalities, and being arrested, attacks by Muslim perpetrators received, on average, 357% more coverage than other attacks. Our results are robust against a number of counterarguments. The disparities in news coverage of attacks based on the perpetrator’s religion may explain why members of the public tend to fear the “Muslim terrorist” while ignoring other threats. More representative coverage could help to bring public perception in line with reality.

Keywords: Terrorism; Media; News Coverage

Suggested Citation

Kearns, Erin and Betus, Allison and Lemieux, Anthony, Why Do Some Terrorist Attacks Receive More Media Attention Than Others? (April 2, 2018). Kearns, E.M., Betus, A. & Lemieux, A. "Why Do Some Terrorist Attacks Receive More Media Attention Than Others?" Justice Quarterly, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2928138 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2928138

Erin Kearns (Contact Author)

University of Alabama ( email )

101 Paul W. Bryant Dr.
Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

Allison Betus

Georgia State University ( email )

35 Broad Street
Atlanta, GA 30303-3083
United States

Anthony Lemieux

Georgia State University - Global Studies Institute ( email )

33 Gilmer Street SE
Atlanta, GA 30302
United States

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