New York City is not only one of the most important cities in the world, but one of the most heavily targeted.
Just last year, terrorists implied their intent to make NYC their next target for attack after the horrific events that took place in Paris. The city and its many announcements were largely covered by media as Americans waited to see how the Big Apple would react – fortunately, no attacks have reached the city since the threats were made.
That same weekend, suicide bombings took place in Beirut, Lebanon. But if you weren’t Lebanese, there’s a small chance you would’ve heard about those two events in the same 24 hours.
This past week, the public editor of The New York Times, Margaret Sullivan wrote a piece titled “Are Some Terrorism Deaths More Equal Than Others?” In the piece, she discusses why some areas and events of the world get more highlighted media coverage than others.
Sadly, it isn’t about what happened, but what was reported. In her piece, Sullivan explains the concept of “newsworthiness” and how it comes into play when covering events.
Sullivan writes, “News, by definition, is something out of the ordinary. In some places, like Iraq, the tragic has become commonplace.”
So, if something isn’t extraordinary, it isn’t newsworthy. The saddest part about Sullivan’s argument is that it is very accurate. Terrorism has become more and more common in our daily lives – a desensitization has occurred for the topic in the media and the world. “We’re used to it so we don’t need to hear about it” has formed into a logic that news outlets have capitalized on. Ordinary isn’t newsworthy. Ordinary doesn’t get the front page of The New York Times.
So it’s true. Every single event in the world cannot hold the same extraordinary importance.
However, that is not the whole story (pun intended). News outlets only report what they believe is relatable and important; what people will want to read the most. And what do they believe we want to read the most? Just what affects us.
Sullivan states that “the relationship between the United States and the country where an attack takes place” plays a part in media coverage. But it is much more than that. Of course we want to hear about what occurred in an ally country, but that doesn’t mean we want to hear about the Middle East any less.
The media has been a frontrunner and capitalizer in this cultural bias where Americans are egotistical bigheads who feel no sympathy for a country that ends in “-stan.”
The US shares no spotlight, so neither do our headlines.