Disparity in news coverage: As many as 2,000 dead in Nigeria, but France dominates front pages

Terror attacks in France carried out by militants claiming allegiance to al-Qaida and Islamic State extremists dominate the world's front pages.

On the other hand, the Muslim militant group Boko Haram's slaughter of as many as 2,000 Nigeriansits "deadliest act" yet, according to Amnesty International — generally settles for less-prime real estate inside newspapers.

But why?

As The Guardian put it:

What makes one massacre more newsworthy than another?

Among the extenuating circumstances cited by the British newspaper:

Reporting in northern Nigeria is notoriously difficult; journalists have been targeted by Boko Haram, and, unlike in Paris, people on the ground are isolated and struggle with access to the internet and other communications. Attacks by Boko Haram have disrupted connections further, meaning that there is an absence of an online community able to share news, photos and video reports of news as it unfolds.

Nonetheless, The Guardian noted:

But reports of the massacre were coming through and as the world’s media focused its attention on Paris, some questioned why events in Nigeria were almost ignored.


Over at The Atlantic, contributing writer Matt Schiavenza brushes aside "accusations of indifference, racism, and media bias."

Rather, Schiavenza makes the case that "the main difference between France and Nigeria isn't that the public and the media care about one and not the other. It is, rather, that one country has an effective government and the other does not."

Schiavenza's take:

How did the attacks in France so thoroughly bury the atrocities in Nigeria?
One explanation is the difficulty of covering dangerous, remote parts of the world, such as Nigeria's northeastern Borno State, where Boko Haram holds sway over much of the territory. A similar dynamic exists in Syria, where a civil war has claimed nearly 200,000 lives since erupting in 2011, and where relatively few journalists are there to witness it. In addition, it's likely that the Paris attack's focus on a publication touched a nerve with members of the media worldwide.
But it's not that the media doesn't cover Nigeria, or that Westerners don't care about Africans. After all, when Boko Haram fighters kidnapped nearly 200 girls from a school in Chibok in April of last year, a public campaign to bring them back attracted widespread publicity, with even First Lady Michelle Obama contributing a photograph. Two years before that, a video from the now-defunct NGO Invisible Children that highlighted Joseph Kony, the Ugandan warlord who leads the Lord's Resistance Army, was viewed over 100 million times in its first six days. These campaigns, whatever their shortcomings, did at least show that people in the West aren't totally indifferent to African suffering.

Here at GetReligion, we have highlighted some excellent (along with some not-so-superb) media coverage of Boko Haram, including a chilling Los Angeles Times account of the militant group targeting Christians.

Even in the latest atrocity, some media have produced riveting accounts, such as this one from CNN:

Kano, Nigeria (CNN) The attackers sped into a Nigerian town with grenade launchers -- their gunfire and explosions shattering the early morning calm.
As terrified residents scattered into bushes in Baga town and surrounding villages, the gunmen unloaded motorcycles from their trucks and followed in hot pursuit.
Residents hid under scant brush. Bullets pierced them.
Some sought refuge in their homes. They were burned alive.
Many who tried to cross into neighboring Chad drowned while trying to swim through Lake Chad.
By the time the weapons went quiet, local officials reported death tolls ranging from hundreds to as many as 2,000 people.

This past weekend's edition of The Wall Street Journal gave banner-headline treatment to ongoing developments in France.

But the Journal did not bury the Nigeria story, putting it on the front page, too:

By the fifth day of Boko Haram’s rampage through the northeast Nigerian town of Baga, so many residents had been shot that “dead bodies were littered everywhere,” said Maina Ma’aji Lawan, the senator for the area. Then the Islamist insurgents torched the town.
“There is not any single house that is standing there,” said Baba Hassan, a resident who said he witnessed the attack.
In the early hours of the carnage Bulama Masta began to lose his children as they tried to flee to safety. Two drowned last Saturday as the family swam away from Baga, which sits on the shores of Lake Chad. Three others were shot on Sunday, he said.
He arrived childless on Monday at the largest nearby city, Maiduguri.

Back to the original question: Why the stark difference in coverage between France and Nigeria?

On Twitter, veteran religion reporter G. Jeffrey MacDonald suggested:

MacDonald may have a point. At the same time, I'm not so certain it's just the press that has trouble relating to the plight of Nigerians.

As an American, I find the notion of armed militants going town to town killing thousands of innocent civilians almost incomprehensible. However, it's not so difficult for me to envision terror attacks like the ones in France.

Rightly or wrongly, that news strikes much more close to home.

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