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The worst - and best - coverage of "violent extremism"

AFSC's new report explains how media should change their coverage of violent extremism to promote peace
AFSC's new report explains how media should change their coverage of violent extremism to promote peace Photo: / AFSC

Our new report on how media cover violent extremism is out! Get your copy here.

The findings may not be surprising. There is Islamophobia. There is gross over-simplification of history. There is very little coverage of nonviolence. 

But there were also some highlights: journalists that gave detailed attention to diplomacy and peace building, for example. 


Here's a round-up of some of the worst - and best - things that we found:

  • Islam is covered in the context of violent extremism 475 times, alomst seven times more often than Christianity and almost 23 times more often than Judaism. We just can't get over that finding. Relgious rhetoric might be used as a weapon in some cases, but that wasn't the main thrust of this coverage.
  • The outlets we sampled covered U.S. military intervention 199 times - more than diplomacy and humanitarian interventions combined. What's worse, we're pretty sure that diplomacy would not have received even the small amount of coverage that it did if our sampling frame hadn't overlapped with the Iran nuclear deal.
  • Four media outlets did not cover nonviolent solutions to conflict at all. Not even once. In three months.
Four outlets did not cover nonviolence at all - not even once.
  • 187 news items quoted another media outlet as a source, making "other media" the most common source in this coverage. Please, journalists, pick up the phone and call someone else for a quote.
  • On the bright side, our inside the Beltway outlets did cover nonviolent interventions, including diplomacy, about a third of the time. Politico covered diplomacy in nearly half of the articles we sampled!
  • Another ray of sunshine: artists, activists, and NGOs were quoted in nearly a third of the coverage we sampled - and NGOs were the fifth-most quoted source. Not bad!


What are some of the best/worst things you've seen in media coverage of violent extremism? Tell us about it in the comments.

About the Author

AREAS OF EXPERTISE: Communications research | Analytics | Social inequality. Beth leads AFSC’s messaging and opinion research, which she uses to develop evidence-based communications guidance for advocates and citizens to ‘change the narrative’ on war and violence. Prior to AFSC, Beth’s research and professional work focused on health inequality in the Americas.

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