Did Alabama hostage crisis’ location result in less media coverage?Posted: February 13, 2013
The Alabama hostage crisis, in which a six-year-old boy was held captive underground, came to an end on February 5, 2013 after nearly a week of attempts to save him and capture the man who had kidnapped him. The story certainly caught the attention of the entire nation. Yet still, many have argued that the crisis’ relatively unknown location of Midland, Alabama resulted in significantly less media coverage.
Chicago Sun-Times digital editor Marcus Gilmer has argued that had the hostage taken place in a large city such as New York or Dallas, the story would dominate the headlines and media coverage would be rapid and constant. Gilmer noted that while the Midland City hostage crisis “saw a bump in readership” on the website, the story still lagged in comparison with other less significant stories. As for his explanation as to why this was the case, Gilmer responded by acknowledging that a violence-filled city like Chicago was simply not interested in hearing about “some crazy redneck with a shotgun in some podunk Alabama town.”
There are some reasonable explanations as to why else the Alabama hostage crisis received less coverage. Because the kidnapper did possess a television in his underground bunker and was actively monitoring the news, police officials and authorities requested local media outlets to remain conservative in their coverage in an effort to avoid escalation. Yet perhaps the biggest reason is because of the obscure location; with less journalists and news stations in Alabama, less coverage is inevitable simply because reporters are not there to witness the situation firsthand.
With the obscure location of the hostage crisis resulting in significantly less media coverage, one could come to the reasonable conclusion that similar situations across the United States (and the world) are receiving less coverage and thus not capturing the attention of the public. Is this disparity in coverage bias by the media, or is it simply inevitable? More importantly, is this disparity a failure on the part of the media to shed light on all news stories?