Media coverage and social media trends dictate what news we hear

by | Nov 20, 2015 | Opinion

Jelani Grant
Biz/Tech Editor

Scientists have theorized that the most significant difference between animals and human beings is our ability to reason. The reasoning behind our actions seems to determine how we react as a collective community.

Lately, however, the reaction from governments seems to be based on the size of the audience to the event. Or rather, the level of attention for the incident is determined by the economic status of the affected area. With the thousands of horrendous acts that haunt modern society, the viewership of the incident appears to be the measure of its importance, not unlike a popular television series.

Take January’s attack by two gunmen at the Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 people dead. The following two days continued with violence when another gunman killed a police officer before shooting four French citizens in a Jewish market. The attacks drew fear across first-world countries that had yet to experience such violent acts on their soil. Despite the terror of these attacks, a majority of people concerned with the Islamic State were not equally informed of an even greater terrorist attack by ISIS affiliate, Boko Haram.

During the same week, Nigerian officials reported that Boko Haram had stormed the Nigerian villages, Baga and Doron Baga. An official death toll was never concluded, as Nigerian government officials did not release an official number. The number of deaths was said to be between 150 and 2,000. Still, it took major news agencies, such as BBC, weeks to release a full-coverage report on the attack, though the death of 17 French citizens in January was reported by every major news station just hours after the attacks occurred.

On the final Friday the 13th of 2015, the extremist group ISIS conducted one of their most conspicuous attacks in six separate locations around Paris, France. These attacks shook the world through the weekend and strict security precautions are still being taken in countries such as Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.

However a day before these violent acts of terrorism, 43 people were killed in a suburb in southern Beirut, Lebanon.

Two weeks prior to this a bomb exploded on a Russian aircraft above Egypt. ISIS claimed responsibility for taking the lives of all 224 people on board.

Not a month before the plane exploded, twin suicide bombers detonated their vests at a peace rally in Ankara, Turkey on Oct. 10. CNN managed to report the same day that at least 95 people died in the explosions. Video of the bombs going off was released as a number of peaceful protesters were attempting to record the rally.

Though all of these attacks did receive coverage, the death toll had little to do with when and how the public received information.

One could argue that violent events in first-world countries gather more attention due to the luxury of social media being more dominant in our everyday lives. However, third-world countries are not completely absent from the online community and even if they were, news agencies have been capable of delivering big news across the globe for decades. So why are we still only hearing major news coverage of attacks in our own countries?

With the continuous rounds of air strike attempts in Syria, the battle ISIS fighters choose to die for will surely continue until there is no land left to occupy. The possible solution to the violence could be all around peace and countries engaged in combat with ISIS may have to find a mutual ground between warring sides. If citizens of these first-world countries were forced to view the all-around death toll rather than their countries’ own losses, governments could be encouraged to seek alternate methods for ending the violence. For now, it is a certainty that the strength of the reaction to the incident will be established by the amount of viewership.