Two maritime disasters in the space of a few days garnered vastly different amounts of media coverage prompting a debate around news values.
Press Gazette looked at the article count for coverage of the Titan sub tragedy, the sinking of a fishing boat packed with migrants and the aborted military coup attempt in Russia.
- The sinking of a fishing boat packed with migrants off the coast of Greece on Wednesday 14 June resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives (the UN estimates up to 500 are missing)
- The Titan submarine, which went missing on Sunday 18 June, was discovered near the wreck of the Titanic on Thursday 22 June with five lives lost
- Yevgeny Prigozhin led a revolt against the Russian military leadership which began on Friday 23 June and was aborted late the following day.
Press Gazette looked at data from Muck Rack, a media database that monitors 600,000 global online media sources, from 14 to 26 June.
According to Muck Rack, estimated global media reports referencing the submarine disaster peaked on Thursday 22 June, with over 35,000 articles. By comparison, articles relating to the fishing boat disaster appear to have peaked at a maximum of 5,000 articles per day.
Articles relating to the Wagner revolt reached almost 32,000 on Saturday 24 June and over 32,000 on Monday 26 June.
Muck Rack data revealing article counts from 14-26 June globally mentioning associated terms around Titan (orange), migrant boat (green) and Wagner (pink):
The disparity in media coverage between the fishing boat disaster and the Titan submarine has prompted a debate around news values.
Josie Naughton, co-founder and chief executive of Choose Love, a UK-based non-governmental organisation supporting refugees around the world, told NBC News when Titan was still missing: “Whilst of course we hope so much that the people on board get brought to safety, it does kind of make you question, what’s the difference in terms of how the media is covering it but also in terms of how, you know, the governments and government infrastructure responds. Why is it so different?”
Others have noted that the enduring public fascination around the Titanic and the race against time element to rescue the submarine crew before possible oxygen supplies ran out naturally elevated interest in the Titan story.
Muck Rack data reveals subtle differences between the US and UK media coverage of all three events. In the UK coverage of the Wagner coup outstripped the Titan tragedy, but in the US Titan appears to have been a more widely covered story.
Muck Rack data revealing article counts from 14-26 June in UK publications which mentioned associated terms around Titan (orange), migrant boat (green) and Wagner (pink):
Muck Rack data revealing article counts from 14-26 June in US publications which mentioned associated terms around Titan (green), migrant boat (orange) and Wagner (blue):
Google search data suggests media coverage reflected what people were searching for.
Using worldwide data from Google Trends, which plots search popularity on a relative scale ranked 0-100, Titan was the peak search term on 22 June, with “fishing boat” hardly registering and Wagner becoming nearly as popular as Titan on 24 June.
According to Newswhip, a real-time media monitoring platform, public interest in the Titan submarine via social media interactions has been significantly higher than both the uprising in Russia and the refugee fishing boat.
UK social media interactions reached 450,000 on Thursday 22 June for the submarine, according to Newswhip.
Two days later, the Wagner uprising’s social media interaction rose to 100,000, which was higher than interest in the submarine that day.
In comparison, social media interactions in the US show a steadier rise in interest in the submarine. Engagement with Wagner-related topics reached over 200,000 but did not rise above submarine-related engagement that day.
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