Syria or the Olympics? An analysis of global event reporting in international news coverage
Jule Krüger and Caitlin Thomas
International news reports inform on current global events. News on deaths is also coded to build databases on armed conflict and violence. While an emerging debate is concerned with how news sources report on political violence, we yet require a better understanding of how journalists and editors select some events from the plethora of potential news stories. The case of armed conflict in Syria in 2012 presents an interesting case in point. Documented as one of the most violent conflict years in a variety of sources, the Syrian conflict “competed” with a range of global events for international news coverage, such as the London Olympics, the re-election of U.S. President Obama, “superstorm” Sandy, or the Mars landing of robotic rover Curiosity. In this paper, we compare global news reports of violent deaths in Syria to various databases of Syrian casualties. Using estimates of all deaths obtained via multiple systems estimation, we examine whether changes in Syria reporting rates can be explained with attention to other events of global news value, the location of a given news source, or the estimated level of violence in Syria. We issue recommendations for empirical conflict research with databases derived from news reports.