Why Do Some Terrorist Attacks Receive More Media Attention Than Others?
ATLANTA—Terror attacks carried out by Muslims receive on average 357 percent more media coverage than those committed by other groups, according to research conducted at Georgia State University.
The study, published in Justice Quarterly, found perpetrator religion is a major predictor of news coverage of a terrorist attack. Other factors also drive coverage, but to a lesser extent. The study authors note that in the United States, “members of the public tend to fear the ‘Muslim terrorist’ while ignoring other threats.”
The research highlights a serious imbalance in news coverage.
“What was especially surprising was the sheer amount of coverage granted to the small handful of domestic terrorists who were both Muslim and from outside of the U.S.,” said Allison Betus, a Presidential Fellow with Georgia State’s Transcultural Conflict and Violent Extremism Initiative. “This tiny minority of the dataset accounted for a very large amount of coverage.”
Out of 136 terror attacks in the U.S. over a span of 10 years the authors studied, Muslims committed on average 12.5 percent of the attacks, yet received more than half of the news coverage.
The research team found that factors other than the perpetrator’s religion also affect coverage. When a suspect was arrested, there was a 287 percent increase in news coverage on average, and attacks against the government received 211 percent more coverage. The number of fatalities in a given attack also affected the extent of coverage. The study found that for each additional fatality, an attack received 46 percent more coverage.