Today marks the anniversary of a conflict few thought would last this long. Despite recent coverage of a "cessation of hostilities" -- which is different than a cease-fire -- reader fatigue has set in with regards to a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and uprooted millions over the past five years. One year ago this week, on the conflict's fourth anniversary, Al Jazeera reported distressingly low traffic to its Syria-related content, a downward trend dating back to 2012. This trend, in turn, became a story itself.
As another round of conflict timeline posts circulate online, we thought we'd put together a different kind of timeline: a timeline of Syria coverage from 2011 to 2016 of the articles that Google News suggests are most relevant to readers. We thought this might help us get a bird's eye view of the Syria-related content that is getting read, and give us some insight into what readers are searching for when they are looking for coverage of this important conflict.
Here's what we found:
Year 1: March 15, 2011 to March 15, 2012
Not a lot of searches happening yet for news in Syria, but the conflict was still new.
- Troops fire on rallies, coined bloodiest day (BBC)
- US and Europe call for Assad to step down (CNN)
- Russia and China block U.N. action in Syria (New York Times)
- Al Qaeda leader backs Syrian revolt against Assad (Reuters)
- Why isn't the world intervening? (CNN)
Year 2: March 16, 2012 to March 15, 2013
Reporting -- and reader attention -- heat up.
- Russian anti-terror troops arrive (ABC)
- Houla children massacred (Huffington Post)
- Syria shoots down a Turkish jet (Telegraph)
- Russia sends warships (New York Times)
- Red Cross declares civil war in Syria (Telegraph)
- Russia and China block another U.N. action in Syria (New York Times)
- Massacre in Syria claims 108 lives (MSNBC)
- Obama sends secret support to Syrian rebels (Reuters)
- Turkey strikes Syria in retaliation (CNN)
- U.S. finds Syria prepping chemical weapons (Wired)
- Syrian women say soldiers use rape as a weapon of war (Latinos Post)
- Syria runs low on medical supplies and food (CNN)
Year 3: March 16, 2013 to March 15, 2014
Journalists, and readers, keep up the attention as the conflict worsens.
- U.S. spies say that Syrians' blood test positive for sarin gas (Wired)
- U.S. manipulating weapons evidence like it did with Iraq (CNN)
- Israel uses depleted uranium shells on Syria (Jerusalum Post)
- Syria receives air defense weapons from Russia (Reuters)
- Iran sends 4,000 troops (Independent)
- Chemical attack? (CNN)
- Military strikes to combat possible chemical weapons (NBC)
- Putin will defend Syria if U.S. attacks (Telegraph)
- "U.S. will definitely suffer" if it leads attacks on Syria (CNN)
- Syria signs ban on chemical weapons and opens storage sites (USA Today)
- Peace talks (New York Times)
- 4.3 million children need humanitarian aid (Al Jazeera)
Year 4: March 16, 2014 to March 15, 2015
Still more conflict, but attention begins to wane.
- Russia, China veto U.N. draft resolution on Syrian war (CNTV)
- Obama authorizes air surveillance of ISIS (New York Times)
- Obama ready to authorize air strikes on ISIS (New York Times)
- U.S. and allies send airstrikes, hit ISIS (CNN)
- Turkey willing to send troops to Syria (CNN)
- Syrian civil war created a decline of 83% in lighting (IBT)
- Mental illness rampant in war inflicted areas (Israel National News)
Year 5: March 16 2015 to present
Five years of witnessing takes a toll.
- No one read Al Jazeera's fourth anniversary of the Syrian civil war (Huffington Post)
- President Assad kills seven times more than ISIS (Vocativ)
- A brutal reminder of why Syrians are fleeing (Huffington Post)
- Bloodbath at the market (Express)
- Prince Charles: climate change may have helped cause Syrian civil war (Guardian)
- U.S. and Russia agree to a deal for a cease fire (USA Today)
- Death toll in 5 year Syrian civil war (Jerusalem Post)
- A look at key events in Syria since March 2011 (Washington Post)
- Syria has lost $368 billion since civil war broke out (Toronto Star)
- Apple rejects game exploring ongoing war in Syria (VentureBeat)
Among other things, we were surprised at the relative diversity of outlets that popped among the "relevant" articles. But we weren't surprised by the lack of "relevant" articles on civil society, people's everyday lives, or grassroots peace-building. This is the kind of coverage we'd like to see moving forward: the human drama of peace-building, which often gets lost in coverage of conflict. What coverage would you like to see more of? Tell us about it in the comments.