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What about Baghdad?

by on November 18, 2015

In light of the immense reporting on the attacks in Paris, the media has neglected to pursue equally as devastating stories in Middle Eastern countries. As Laura discussed in a recent blog post, the masses have come to the aid Parisians and their city. However, elsewhere, say in the city of Beirut, Lebanon media coverage is scarce, and support is merely visible across social media platforms. The “pray for Paris” hashtag gracing many of our cell phone screens is usually accompanied by an abroad photo standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, or the cleverly designed peace symbol picturing that same landmark. But where is the “pray for Beirut” hashtag? Where is the cleverly designed symbol of hope and worldly support for Beirut? Overall, the vast difference in news and social media representation of both tragedies speaks to favoritism and a lack of diverse news coverage. However, the most astounding part of the Paris – Beirut media coverage debate is another attack that has been entirely left out of the conversational hype. On the same day that Paris was attacked by ISIS, Baghdad was attacked by ISIS – by means of a memorial service bombing.

On the morning of November 13th, ISIS suicide bombers orchestrated an attack targeted at Shiites during the memorial service of a Shiite militant who fought to his death opposing ISIS. According to The New York Times, the blast killed over 20 innocent people, thus continuing the reign of terror imposed by the IS. The United States, as well as other Western countries consider ISIS as a significant threat, however, the terrorist group is widely reported on if, and only if its terrorist efforts target the Western world. The New York Times reminds us that the Middle East, Baghdad specifically “has seen near-daily attacks, with roadside bombs, suicide blasts and assassinations targeting Iraqi forces and government officials, with significant casualties among the civilian population.” The key phrase here is “near-daily.” If these ISIS attacks are occurring so frequently, why are we not caring about them, or further hearing about them?

This lack of reporting could be on the part of newsroom diversity and it’s static inability to reach and report on particular demographics. Do newsrooms across America lack in Middle Eastern reporters and reporting? Is the Middle Eastern voice limited in Western journalism? Considering what The New York Times’ IS attack article suggests, it is safe to say that the majority of casualties and tragedies occurring daily in the Middles East are not being reported on by Western journalists. How can we sit back and allow continuous coverage of the events in Paris while we barely touch upon the consistency of terrorist attacks on Middle Eastern civilians? Have we become desensitized? Is it really fair to claim that the United States is a country looking to better the world and support mending countries when our media turns a blind eye to conditions of innocent families in Iraq and its surrounding countries? To improve coverage of these countries we need more than just freelancers and war zone reporters; we need the newsroom to have the influence and understanding of Arab reporters.

Diversity in the newsroom is essential to reaching demographics and accurately reporting on the said demographic’s cultural experiences. Reporters can try to place themselves in the shoes of their subjects, but the fact of the matter is that we cannot fully understand something if we have not experienced it ourselves. Perhaps the idea of covering the topical Middle East appears as a serious challenge for journalists unfamiliar with Middle Eastern culture. Living in a war zone under constant terrorist threat is vastly different than reporting on it. If newsrooms paid special attention to hiring Middle Eastern reporters, perhaps the IS memorial bombing would have received the coverage it deserved. No innocent life is greater than another. The death of a French civilian should weigh as heavily in the news as the death of an Iraqi civilian.

We should be equally sympathetic to the lives lost in Baghdad and Beirut as we have been to the lives lost in Paris. By shifting the newsroom demographic to consider the strength and reach of Middle Eastern reporters, perhaps the media would be able to spread the sympathy for equally deserving countries.

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One Comment
  1. I definitely agree with you about the unequal coverage of these events. There is a very dangerous view (held by many Americans) that sets Western Europe apart from the rest of the world in media coverage. Maybe it’s because the most popular vacation settings are in this area of the world? No matter the reason, it is true that when a tragedy hits Europe, especially the west, there is much more in depth and comprehensive coverage of that tragedy compared to other areas of the world.

    Diversity in the newsroom could help this from occurring but this could also be applied to other areas of reporting. Many wide-spread issues are completely disregarded in reporting because there aren’t specific enough current events to report on. This applies to sexual violence, while this has been going on for as long as we have been on this planet there aren’t articles about it unless there’s a huge, and public, occurrence. And when it’s reported on, the work done isn’t 100% accurate and causes some people to assume all articles on that topic are also not written well.

    When one publication makes the mistake of not equally covering an issue there is a much wider affect that is had on society – and that’s where the real danger is. If one newspaper is focusing on Paris then, in order to compete, so will others and then there’s a chain reaction.

    I don’t know how this issue is fixed – because of how systemic it is – but I absolutely agree with you that the coverage of these events needs to be shifted so that areas like Baghdad and Beirut are being covered as equally as Paris.

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