Is There A Right Way To Report On Terror?

Friday, May 31, 2013


In covering acts of terror, like the gruesome Woolwich killing last week in London, how should the press report the story without giving those responsible the overwhelming amount of attention they seek? Bob considers the British media's coverage of the Woolwich attack and the decision by most British outlets to air the video of one suspect's diatribe.


Jim James - All Is Forgiven

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Bob Garfield

Comments [5]

Remko van Broekhoven

What a superb comment on 'Woolwich'. I'm working on an article for a Dutch journalism site in the same vein, so thank you so much Bob, for enlightening me.

Jun. 18 2013 08:59 AM
herb from wf nyc

For years the media has given a pass on terrorist act on Jews (particularly those in Israel) by equating the acts of terror with target assassinations of members of terrorists groups. The common phraseology ‘cycle of valiance’ is used to describe a terrorist that kills a mother & baby, and the Israelis targeting the terrorist group that takes credit for the murder. When you make such an equation you make excuses for the terrorist act. Giving a pass on such acts says it is OK; the chickens are home to roost.

Jun. 02 2013 01:48 PM
bw from Ashland, Or

Thanks, On the Media. I wish the media discussed this topic much more often, and I'd like to see the topic broadened a lot; to go way beyond the arena of media about terror but to include all events related to terror. Every community has its immature members, and the media is no exception. The challenge, in democracies that have laws to uphold freedom of speech (which I like) is immature gossip, from the intimate level of neighbors snarking, to the social level of twitter and facebook. Immature gossip breeds more immaturity, and everyone gets affected. The media has members who lack mature restraint; who are out to become successful (or whatever) and ignore the responsibilities which accompany the power to communicate with lots of people, and this lack of self restraint makes big messes. Here's an example of how I'd like to see the topic broadened; minister Terry Jones burned a Q'uran in rural Florida in Sept 2010, and got huge media coverage. After there were riots and deaths in Afghanistan. If Jones had gotten no broad coverage to begin with, if he had actually been ignored (o! wouldn't that have been nice!), it would have been an insignificant racist act on the part of one immature kook off in a backend with a small group of kooks who followed him. How does one make media coverage of events like Jone's act of symbolic racist violence seem like the temper tantrums of a raging toddler? Because that's all it really was, and to give it more weight than it deserves, encourages it. Parents know. You put screaming toddlers in a comfortable room and gently but firmly close the door. Tell them to scream all they want, but they have to do it all by themselves. I know I'm in fantasy land and asking what would a society of mostly mature people do; mature reporters and mature seekers of new reports. But if we don't dream about the best case scenario we can't ever reach for it. Could local media coverage of stuff like Jones be somehow made legal and geographically wide coverage be somehow be made illegal? Mind you; I don't have answers, but I'd like to see these questions at least get asked. How do we do this? Who monitors the media? I saw lots of press coverage that chastised Jones after the riots and the deaths, but who in the media criticized the media for making such a big deal out of it to begin with? Was there any media like that, and I missed it? Did any reporters write editorials that people like Jones, ideally, shouldn't get so much glitzy coverage? The three year old having a tantrum gets no headlines whatsoever, and there should be some way of discussing events like Jones burning the Q'uran that puts it in a similar perspective.

Jun. 02 2013 10:53 AM
Thatwood B. Telling from The Village

Bob, I'm afraid you're wrong about the British media not mentioning the self-incriminating tirade you ran in this piece. It may be unlawful for them to do so, but the Guardian has been printing the killer's statements in its stories. One such example:

"Brandishing a cleaver and a knife, and with the body of the victim lying yards away, the man said: 'We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

'We must fight them. I apologise that women had to witness this today. But in our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don't care about you.'"


And this is only one of many times the Guardian has done this.

Jun. 01 2013 10:49 PM
Zen Buddhist from New Jersey

BIG Media should begin to call acts like the above, "A Terror Act by an Islamic Terrorist." Nothing less nothing more will do.

Jun. 01 2013 06:09 PM

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