Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Media on London, 7/7: An International Perspective

Originally posted July 7, 2005
I'd like to begin today's post with an unequivocal denunciation of today's terror attacks in London. Regardless of the circumstances, the taking of innocent human life (taxpaying or otherwise) is always absolutely unacceptable in the furtherance of any goal. Al-Qaeda continue to prove themselves a threat to all those who disagree with them, a constituency which grows (I hope) with every new attack. My hopes and condolences go out to the British who lost their lives, limbs, and loved ones today, and I strongly urge them to remain vigilant against the influence of terror.

The story was all over the news today, so I thought it might be interesting to have a look at how different news agencies were covering the issue. The screencaps below were all taken between noon and 12:30pm EST today (July 7), some eight hours after the attacks occurred. On the right you'll see the home pages of six major US news outlets; on the left, those of several prominent foreign media.

(click for infographic)

Overall, the US coverage seems to me markedly more sensationalistic than the international. Note ABC, Fox, and MSNBC's short, shocking headlines compared to the generally lengthier titles of the foreign outlets. CNN features the most garish headline of all, a survivor's quote clearly calculated to deliver maximum emotional impact. Further note the significant amount of screen real estate devoted to imagery on ABC, Fox, and MSNBC's pages. The only foreign site featuring a comparably large image is France's Le Monde. The fact that those three US outlets are all TV stations may have something to do with it, as the other three American sites (all two of them newspapers) offer a more balanced text-to-image ratio. This may indicate a stronger willingness on the part of US TV networks to resort to the power of the visual, rather than the mere force of the story itself, to draw in visitors.

The above comments represent my own "first-glance" attempts to generalize media trends in the coverage of this tragedy. Again, a rigorous quantitative study would be needed to draw any credible conclusions. With that in mind, I invite you to add your own comments about what the table says to you.