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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Ethics in the News – Nov. 17

News coverage by the American media about two fatal terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris respectively triggers discussion about journalism ethics in terms of double standard.

The terrorist attack Friday in Paris, which killed more than 100, was reported by news outlets all over the world, and elicited mass sympathy across social media. CNN ran a live news feed and a detailed timeline of the Paris attack on its website as the investigation unfold.

One day earlier, a double bomb attack taking dozens of lives in Beirut, Lebanon, seemed not to get the same level of international attention. A New York Times story published after the Paris attack describes how Lebanon people felt “forgotten” as the whole world mourned for Paris.

According to an Al Jazeera analysis comparing news coverage about the two attacks, Western media “diluted the massacre” in Beirut by categorizing the casualties as victims of the geopolitical and religious predicament in local community, using a Huffington Post article as example.

Lindsay Palmer also wrote for the Center for Journalism Ethics, warning US news media of an extreme patriotism extended to the Paris attack through cultural proximity. This kind of patriotism has once led the media astray during the 9/11 Attack, Palmer wrote in the article.

Vox’s Max Fisher points out that the readers should also share the responsibility for the unbalanced media attention, as the Beirut attack stories did not get the salience in media agenda partly because few people were interested in reading them.

And, simultaneously, the crisis bred inaccurate reporting and social media messages.  In times of crisis, facts can be  undermined by emotional impulses.

In other journalism ethics news:

Center for Journalism Ethics in the news

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