Random Scribbles: Terrorism more newsworthy than tragedy?

[Random Scribbles are my occasional posts of half-formed thoughts, half-baked ideas, and off-the-cuff observations.]

The explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas: 14 dead; 650 news stories.

The Boston Marathon bombing: 3 dead; 1718 news stories.

One has to wonder about the disproportionate coverage the Boston bombings has received. Disproportionate in the sense that there have been more than twice the number of news articles published for 1/5 the lives lost.

Is it because Boston is perceived as “terrorism” while the Texas fertilizer plant was routine bad luck? Did the bombings generate more fear that it might happen to “us”? Does the “us” include upper middle-class white people living in a major urban center in the Northeast, and not poor residents of a Texas town that, until two weeks ago, few had ever heard of?

In many ways, the Texas explosion was more tragic than the Boston bombing–not to belittle in any way the pain and fear of the Boston victims. But the fertilizer plant was mostly neglected by its owner and state and federal regulators, as it processed chemicals of known explosive potential. It was a tragedy waiting to happen.

[Note on method: I performed simple searches of a Lexis/Nexis database of major newspapers to get the count of stories.]


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