Wednesday, April 18, 2007
what predicts how much coverage a tragedy gets?
So, the New York Times is currently running stories on its front page about 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech being murdered and 160 citizens of Iraq being murdered. Enormous tragedies, all, obviously. Yet, the VT shootings will presumably get at least 10x--and perhaps more like 100x--the total column inches of coverage in the NYT than these Iraq bombings will get (indeed, a telling part of the coverage of Iraq bombings is how commonly and easily they are lumped together).
I'm not making any judgment on the wrongness or rightness of this as a journalistic practice, but: I've always thought it would be interesting to do a study of the relationship between the number of deaths in a tragic event and the number of column inches a story gets, and then what are the other factors that lead events to get more or less coverage.
Even just for the deaths of individual soldiers, I think it would be an interesting graph to see how (I presume) coverage of individual soldier deaths has declined as the war has gone on, despite the rate of soldier deaths being, if anything, remarkable for their relative consistency over time.
I'm presuming there is research on this and it's more that I'm not aware of it. If anyone is and has pointers to finding it, let me know.