G20 Summit & Paris Attacks Highlight Western Media’s Disconnect with Their Viewership

By: Chandler Copenheaver, Communications/Digital Strategy Committee Member

UntitledThe three things most people heard about from the G20 Summit were the weight that the terrorist attacks in Paris held over the event, the cats that snuck onto the summit stage, and this photo of Obama and Putin huddled at a rather small hotel-lobby table for two of the world’s biggest leaders. While no one can be sure what was being discussed in this small moment, it’s interesting that such a candid photo would pop up in combination with “Putin Positive” articles amidst the onslaught the US media pushed onto Putin over the last few years.

What’s even more staggering is the fact that no major US or European media outlet reported on Putin’s statement that, through Russian intel, he’s learned that ISIS is financed from 40 countries around the world, including members of the G20 Summit. While one can make the claim that Russia Today is biased, aiming to paint their Russian President as holier than western political leaders, it’s shocking that these claims, which are easily accessible on Russia Today’s website (along with video footage of Putin’s claim during his time speaking at the Summit) have had next to nothing coverage-wise in western news.

The compassionate gestures from those in the western world were overwhelming after the Paris attacks, and to a similar extent, a hatred for ISIS spread and bubbled up to new heights. So why wouldn’t western media outlets want to publish information that’s not only on a subject very close and relevant to their readership, but also one that would attract readership in the millions? Especially in a time where hard-hitting journalism is considered to be dying?

These conjectures, whether misplaced or not, highlight an extreme public relations problem that western media seems to not care about addressing: a complete lack of trust in the media from American audiences. Only four out of ten Americans say they trust the media by a, “great deal or fair amount”.

Along with the lack of coverage on Putin’s claims at the G20 Summit, The Atlantic touched upon the evident differences in the coverage of the Paris attacks compared to the Beirut attacks of a similar nature just a day before. They pinpoint the language used and respect given to those affected in the Paris related articles but a sincere lack of the exact same qualities in the coverage of Beirut.

It’s not as if these conflicting practices have been making money for western media outlets either. Cable news viewership and print news sales are on the fall, so what gives? When will these companies realize the PR nightmare they’re in and do something about it? It’s hard to speculate upon, and quite frankly, there’s little explanation for their continued editorial decisions other than a disconnect between what the editors think their readership wants and what their readership actually wants.

If western media is to survive, they’re going to have to concede that their public image has fallen from grace, and their coverage of two of the biggest events of the year have shown they’re on the wrong path. One great picture paired with a less-than-biased take on Putin and Syria only in the wake of tragedy is not something that should be an outlier, but a standard; a standard that’s being demanded by the American people. And quite honestly, as a result of the PR tactics from these media outlets, it doesn’t seem as if the American public is going to miss them if they grow into irrelevancy.

Sources:

[1] Paris Attacks affect on the G20 Summit
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/11/the-g20-summit-after-paris/416127/
[2] Cats at G20 Summit
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/11/17/456346500/cats-invade-g-20-summit-stage-bringing-a-welcome-laugh
[3] Obama and Putin meet in hotel lobby
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/16/g20-barack-obama-and-vladimir-putin-agree-to-syrian-led-transition
[4] Example of “Postive Putin” article from Yahoo News
http://news.yahoo.com/obama-says-putin-constructive-partner-syria-talks-033128923.html
[5] Example of negative Putin article from The Economist
http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21643189-ukraine-suffers-it-time-recognise-gravity-russian-threatand-counter
[6] Russia Today reporting Putin has knowledge of financial sources of ISIS
https://www.rt.com/news/322305-isis-financed-40-countries/
[7] American trust of media study
http://www.gallup.com/poll/185927/americans-trust-media-remains-historical-low.aspx
[8] Paris and Beirut attack coverage comparison
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/11/paris-beirut-media-coverage/416457/
[9] Declining cable news statistics
http://www.journalism.org/2015/04/29/cable-news-fact-sheet/
[10] Declining print journalism statsitics
http://www.journalism.org/2015/04/29/news-magazines-fact-sheet/

Image credit: theguardian.com

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