The media loves to talk about themselves. Some of their favorite stories to cover are when there is an obstruction of the First Amendment or when one of their own is attacked.
Last week’s horrific killings in Paris received an extensive amount of media attention, as they should have. But it isn’t a coincidence that the victims of the crime were journalists, cartoonists and an entire magazine, and audiences were immensely more informed and aware of this terrorist attack than they were about the shootings at a kosher grocery store two days later in the same city.
Two incidents both allegedly related to al-Qaeda, yet the one that threatened freedom of press is the one monopolizing media outlet headlines.
Meanwhile, there have been recent reports of large-scale massacres by an Islamist extremist group in Nigeria. One local political told the BBC that 2,000 people had died. But these stories don’t fill our Twitter timelines; stories about other newspapers that have screwed up and stories about city council members who don’t like to be quoted do.
As journalists ourselves, we understand the importance of the First Amendment better than anyone. But we are regretful that other professionals in our field selfishly lose sight of issues that we should be using our freedom of speech to bring light to.
For instance, one of the other biggest stories of the year was when North Korea threatened an attack if Sony Pictures released The Interview in theaters. Sony complied with a scaled-back online release that generated more than $15 million in its first four days, only slightly less than it was expected to generate with a full theatrical release.
The film got more press coverage and publicity than it ever would have without a threat. Why? Because someone told the media they couldn’t do something, and that is less tolerable to us than distant religious massacres that don’t affect our everyday lives.
Yes, freedom of press is a vital, basic human right. Its violation can have severe societal consequences. But it’s also important for the press to view the world with a wide lens and aim to provide coverage of all acts against humanity, not just their own kind.