We watch news coverage of terrorism because we think it’ll make us better informed about how to keep ourselves safe. But what if it does the opposite?
image/text credit: Vox
For most Americans, terrorism is only ever experienced through a television screen or front page of a newspaper. Many Americans rely on cable news in the wake of high-profile tragedies, and news networks see ratings spikes in the wake of terrorist attacks.
Those ratings incentivize news networks to sensationalize their coverage, repeatedly airing graphic images of violence and combing over the excruciating details of attacks.
That kind of news coverage causes Americans to overestimate the danger posed by terrorism, and our heightened fear can have serious consequences, causing us to overreact, pursue unhelpful security measures, and rally behind politicians who embrace over-the-top responses to terrorism.