The Explosion of the Boston Marathon Bombing/ By Rachel Frazin and Ilona Plaksina

An analysis of the extensive media coverage of the Boston bombing, and a look at Israeli media coverage

The vivid memory that first drew my attention to the oddities of the media, particularly that of the United States, was a conversation I had with my mom. We were sitting in the car and I mentioned something about the civil war in Syria, which has been going on for over two years and currently has a death toll of over 100,000 people as reported by CBC. My mother looked at me confusedly, she had never heard of it.

This day sharply contrasts with the memory of April 15, 2013, the day the Boston Marathon was bombed. That day, it was all anyone spoke of – including my mother. Carried out by two rogue young men, this bombing, tragic as it was, had a death toll of three, with 260 injured. Yet, it is one of the most highly publicized and covered events so far this year, especially by American publications.

I found it puzzling that this event received so much coverage and drew so much world attention, despite the fact that in comparison to other events it directly affected a relatively small number of people. Months later, it is still covered by major newspapers and magazines, including the controversial photo on the cover of Rolling Stones magazine, where suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared happy and, some would argue, glorified. All over Boston people are wearing “Boston Strong” T-shirts, and the writers of The Fighter are even adapting the events into a movie.

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Ronit Sela, former managing editor for The Jerusalem Post, said, “The media in the United States is a huge chunk of international media…people in other countries are impacted by what goes on in the United States.” She added that bombings are unusual in the United States, so such an event draws a lot of attention.

A journalist who covered the story explained that the media covered the story extensively “because the media felt like it was very important…but I think that matched how much people cared.”

Matt Fowler, a Bostonian who lives a few blocks from where the bombing occurred, said “some things were sensationalized that I don’t think should have been, but overall [the media coverage] was okay.”

While the extensive media coverage of the bombing is largely understood, many reacted negatively to the Rolling Stones’ cover story on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the accompanying picture on its front page. Ken Shifman, a Bostonian who works for a local high school newsroom said “say you were a victim… and you go to pay for a pack of gum in CVS and there is a picture of the person who was responsible for injuring you or killing your loved one and he looks like a rock star.” He added that people in the Boston area are still sensitive to it, because it happened practically “in their backyard.”

Coverage of ongoing terror

Although the Boston bombing occurred in the U.S. it was covered all over the world, including in Israel, which has continuously suffered terrorist attacks. People all over the country were talking about it, and the newspapers covered it from many points of views, basing much of the information on U.S. news reports. Similarly, when a terror attack occurs in Israel, most of the information in the foreign media is based on Israeli reports and photos. Yedioth Ahronot, a leading Israeli newspaper, showed a photo of people running after the bombs exploded, highlighting to Israeli readers the fact that an Israel flag was showing there

Israel had suffered for a very long time from terror attacks. Even thought the number of attacks has decreased in the last two years, Israelis still carry the fear and the memory of terror in their minds and hearts. Israeli media is experienced with coverage of attacks such as kidnappings and explosions, and in light of this is required to be very sensitive to the people.

In the last few years, several terrorist attacks against Israelis occurred abroad. In July last year, a bus with Israeli citizens exploded in Bulgaria. In the attack 7 people were killed and 32 were injured. The majority of the Israeli reporting on this event was secondhand and based on the Bulgarian press. This reporting differed from the coverage in Israeli news of a bus explosion that occurred in Jerusalem, near the International Convention Center, which included a lot of firsthand coverage as it happened not only within the country’s borders, but also close to the heart of the capital.

In a different attack that took place in 11 March 2011, five members of the same Jewish family from Itamar were murdered in their beds by two young Palestinian men. The Israeli media covered this event extensively. Many pictures were published, showing the messy rooms after the murder, the blood on the children’s beds, and even the bodies of the family members.

The intense coverage in the newspapers lasted about two weeks, and the journalists found new debates to open about this topic. People were talking about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, about the possibility to have a death punishment in Israel, and about the religious newspaper that cut out the photo of the mother just because they don’t want to show a picture of a woman in their newspaper. While most of the attention to the story was focused in Israel, it was also covered by news organizations elsewhere, such as CNN and Palestinian news outlets

Coverage of terror attacks in Israel and in the U.S. share some similarities, but also reflect differences. Three months after the Boston bombing people are still talking about it, new pictures are being published, and “Boston Strong” T-shirts are sold. The trauma, the unpredictable bomb, and the inexperienced media keep the topic alive. While the Boston bombing is a sensitive issue that has been a constant topic for discussion and will probably remain so for a very long time, in Israel terror attacks are discussed for only for a few weeks. After that, Israelis move on. The Boston bombing, however, is something that will be very hard for many people to forget.

 

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