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

19 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2017  

Erin M. Kearns

University of Alabama

Allison Betus

Georgia State University

Anthony Lemieux

Georgia State University - Global Studies Institute

Date Written: March 5, 2017

Abstract

Terrorist attacks often dominate news coverage as reporters seek to provide the public with information about the event, its perpetrators, and the victims. Yet, not all incidents receive equal attention. Why do some terrorist attacks receive more media coverage than others? We argue that social identity 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 2011 and 2015. Controlling for target type, fatalities, and being arrested, attacks by Muslim perpetrators received, on average, 449% more coverage than other attacks. Given the disproportionate quantity of news coverage for these attacks, it is no wonder that people are afraid of the Muslim terrorist. More representative media coverage could help to bring public perception of terrorism in line with reality.

Keywords: Terrorism; Media; News Coverage

Suggested Citation

Kearns, Erin M. and Betus, Allison and Lemieux, Anthony, Why Do Some Terrorist Attacks Receive More Media Attention Than Others? (March 5, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=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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