Syria or the Olympics?

The number of daily casualties reported by The New York Times (red) and The Guardian (blue) compared to multiple systems estimates of total lethality.

 

Syria or the Olympics? An analysis of global event reporting in international news coverage
Jule Krüger and Caitlin Thomas

 

News reporting informs on global, national, and local events. News on deaths, i.e., ‘body counts,’ are also coded to create databases on political violence. While scholars have been debating for a long time 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 presents an interesting case in point. Documented as the most violent conflict year in a variety of sources, the Syrian conflict “competed” with a range of globally salient events for news coverage in 2012, 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 news reports of violent events in Syria to news reporting on the 2012 London Olympics. Using casualty estimates 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. To conclude, we issue recommendations for empirical conflict research with databases derived from news reports.

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