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This post is part of an ongoing series that uses data to show selective media coverage. Sign up to be notified of future posts. See previous posts here.

Visualizing 10 years of International Coverage in The New York Times

The New York Times slogan is "all the news that's fit to print" - and their executive editor notes that they strive to be fair and honest to the world, not just to a segment of it.

But astute readers know that every media source's coverage has to be based on its readers' interests - otherwise few would read it. When news sources follow our interests, our view of the world can be distorted - even if the coverage is wholly composed of verified facts.

One way to visualize this is to compare The New York Times percentage of international articles for a given region versus other stats (population, GDP, trade; note that the US is not included):

NY Times International Coverage vs Actual Region Statistics (10-year)

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2006
2016
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Visualisation Designed and Coded By
Pykih.com
Sources

This graph represents nearly 50,000 articles over 10+ years. The Middle East gets the same amount of coverage as Asia, even though the latter has 10 times the population. What else do you notice in the coverage of the Americas? In the coverage of Europe?

This is a crude analysis, but it shows us how much focus there is on this region. Do extreme events happen at ten times greater rate in the Middle East over Asia? Or are they just more relevant to an American reader? And what perception does what is covered (war, terrorism) give a reader about the entire Middle East and all 1.6 BN Muslims?

How would this graph be different if we were choosing a different national paper or your Facebook feed?

Now here’s The New York Times coverage of countries over the last decade:

NY Times World Section Coverage vs Actual Country Statistics
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2006
2016
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Visualisation Designed and Coded By
Pykih.com
Source: NY Times custom analysis, Wikipedia (Population and IMF GDP in PPP terms). In the case of Israel, this may also be due to the fact that an article’s geography includes all articles that even tangentially include that country. So for example, many articles primarily about Gaza and the West Bank may partially refer to Israel - increasing the number of articles”about” Israel.

Substantial coverage is given to both American geopolitical foes and to countries that are American allies (Western Europe, Japan, Israel). China with a large percentage of the world’s population and GDP gets very little coverage relative to its size. Iraq and Israel, both with a much smaller portion of the world’s population, get a similar level of coverage to China.

If you’re interested in contributing, there’s much more that could be done by analyzing The New York Times and other sources of media. See our contribution guidelines.

Finally, I don't mean to call out The New York Times alone, and this effect likely occurs in most forms of news media, especially social media. Still, by choosing what some consider a thoughtful media source, we can more easily suggest the effect is prevalent elsewhere.

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