The Newsworthiness of International Terrorism

Gabriel Weimann, Hans Bernd Brosius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The emergence of media-oriented terrorism has led scholars of modern terrorism to reconceptualize this phenomenon within the framework of symbolic communication theory. This study focuses on the newsworthiness of international terrorism. It relates the concept of deviance as a predictor of newsworthiness to the specific attributes of terrorist events and their impact on media selection (coverage or no coverage) and prominence of coverage (amount of space or time and location). The RAND Corporation chronology of international terrorism (1968-1980) and the coverage given to each terrorist event in the three American television networks and nine newspapers from various countries serve as the data base. By means of multivariate analysis, the effects of various attributes of terrorist events on media selection and coverage are examined. In general, the level of victimization, the type of action, the identity of the perpetrators, and an attributable responsibility were found to be the best predictors of media coverage. However, the effect of attributes on coverage varied from selection to prominence, thus suggesting a two-step process of selection in which different considerations affect each step. The impact of the various attributes was found to change over time. These findings suggest that the process of news selection is more complex than a simple relationship between attributes of events and coverage. In the case of terrorism, deviance as newsworthiness can be regarded as the guiding principle of coverage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-354
Number of pages22
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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