Do Readers Care Less About Istanbul Than Paris?

The global response to the Istanbul suicide bombing pales in comparison to the post-Paris reaction likely because editors think readers don’t care, or do they?

On the day after the attack in Istanbul, the homepages of the New York Times, the Financial Times, The Guardian, and the Washington Post are graced with pictures of Boris Johnson’s bad hair.

Yesterday’s massacre at Ataturk Airport has been resigned to the back pages, for the most part. People, meanwhile, are complaining on social media about the lack of international solidarity for Turkey.

While most press outlets acknowledge the suicide blast in some way more or less—perhaps with coverage about the nationalities of the suicide bombers as details emerge—the fact is that the media doesn’t want to cover it as front page news because they think the readers simply aren’t interested.

By contrast, after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last November, the media covered every possible angle of the terror incident, with full-length stories squeezed out from single tweets.

That’s not to say Istanbul is being completely ignored—not at all. The banner on Associated Press’s homepage is photo of a little girl in Istanbul praying at a funeral for one of the deceased, for example.

After Lahore endured a terrorist attack this past March, Martin Belam, the social editor at The Guardian, described the difficulties in getting people to read about terror incidents that occur outside of Europe.

Belam explained it in terms of The Guardian’s analytics, spelling out that their story on the attack would hover around being in the top 10 for the day, but the lighthearted stories remained in the top spots.

At Carbonated.TV, there is a similar scenario. Our main story on the Istanbul bombing was the third top story yesterday, outperformed by a story about xenophobia in the UK and viral story on moral fashion police in Saudi Arabia. After the Paris attack, Carbonated.TV’s story about it didn’t even make it to the top ten within 24 hours afterwards. The top story instead chronicled a viral selfie.

Perhaps because Americans are more likely to have visited Canada, Mexico, or Europe when traveling abroad than the Middle East, they are less likely to be interested in what happens there. In 2014, 17.4 percent (11.9 million) of Americans who traveled overseas went to Europe, while a marginal 2.7 percent visited the Middle East.

The influence of ISIS is not just an Eastern problem—it’s a global phenomenon which warrants readers’ attention. In 2015 alone, more than 150 people in Turkey have been killed by ISIS; in the US last year, there were three attacks inspired by ISIS, leaving 15 Americans dead.

Nevertheless, Turkey should not be viewed as a threat, but an ally – just as France is. They suffer from tremendous internal terrorism and warrant global support, not isolation.


Photo credit: Reuters

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