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July 25, 2005

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Just Egypt?

Is it just me, or was the news storm swirling around this weekend’s bombing in Egypt a good bit more humble than the one around the London bombings? Since I was out Friday night, I didn’t get the word until checking the papers Saturday morning. By that point, the news cycle was revolving around the fact that the terrorism-related death toll of the innocent in London had belatedly risen to 53.

I know terrorism-related deaths aren’t quite as alien to Egypt as they are to Great Britain, but shouldn’t news outlets strive for at least a pretense of parity in their coverage of each disaster?

I might also be completely wrong in my assessment of the relative play given to each story, but nothing in the Egypt coverage leads me to suspect the bombings there will still be getting front-page mentions in the national papers two-and-a-half weeks from now. Call me on this if it’s not so.

To be fair: The editors may just be accused of going where the readers are. First and only Metafilter thread on Egypt bombings: 37 comments. First of at least a dozen threads on the July 7 London bombings: 712 comments. There are probably many more British MeFites than Egyptian ones, but dang.

Posted July 25, 2005 at 8:23 | Comments (3) | Permasnark
File under: Journalism


SUCH a good point. Some of this disparity is driven by the fact that there are a lot more American (& 'Western') reporters in London than in Cairo. But still. Maybe THAT's part of the problem too.

One of the differences between the coverage of the bombings in Great Britain and those in Egypt is that the former have been much more heavily framed than the latter: as the first suicide bombings in Western Europe, as an international guerilla attack, as the expression of the frustrated local Muslim population, etc. There was also a great deal of coverage of Londoners' response to the bombings, from the government to the police to the everyday citizenry.

It's these framings and contextualizations that 1) help make the news item appear to be a story with international import and 2) help make the news item relevant for an American audience. I can't even remember how many stories I saw comparing the UK attacks, the police response, the attitudes of the local Muslim population, etc., to the Americans.

To the extent that the bombings in Egypt can be made to appear as part of a larger, international story -- I saw a headline today where Musharraf rejected the idea that the bombings could have been directed by Al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan -- then you can make the story swing. But that's tougher to do in Egypt, because the import and context of the bombings are less clear, because the government is less open, because journalists have less access, and yes, because Westerners have less interest. But I think it's a harder nut to crack than just that.

I was thinking the exact same thing, but Tim makes a very good point about society being more closed in Egypt. I mean, a couple days after the London bombings I rendez-voused with people who had been in London that day.. That's not even citizen reporting, that's a gossip grapevine. We are much more strongly connected by gossip to London than to Cairo, and that is greatly reflected in our mediaspheres. There just arent' as many westerners in Egypt to get information and views from, precisely because bombings like this are both more common and more obviously targetted at westerners, who have the option of not showing up. (You can't exactly ask London to be emptied of Anglo Saxons.)

Still, terribly terribly sad. The isolation Egypt risks being pluned into will only increase its socieconomic problems.

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