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The "Elite Eight" – Where the Media Get it Wrong on Extremist Violence

New research shows some international news coverage unnecessarily links the Islamic faith to acts of extremist violence. (iStockphoto)
New research shows some international news coverage unnecessarily links the Islamic faith to acts of extremist violence. (iStockphoto)
March 25, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - With the March Madness basketball tournament under way, social justice advocates are releasing their own version of the Elite Eight: the eight most-quoted sources in news articles about extremism.

To create their list, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) looked through more than 600 media articles about violent extremism, explains Beth Hallowell, AFSC communications research director.

She said they found White House officials and the U.S. military were among the top-quoted sources in the coverage, which more often than not portrays a link between extremism and the Islamic religion.

"Our national discourse is at an all-time low when it comes to violence, race, religion and so forth," says Hallowell. "And so, we really want to encourage journalists and advocates to work together to change that narrative."

The research also shows that Islam is mentioned in context with extremist violence about 90 percent of the time in media coverage, even if religion was not a relevant factor in the event being covered.

Hallowell argued that sometimes, media coverage can unintentionally create the false impression that Muslim terrorism, especially in the U.S., is more prevalent that it actually is. To help curb that trend, Hallowell cautions that journalists should try to avoid sensationalism.

"We encourage journalists to try to cover Muslim communities and Muslims as complex individuals, just like everybody else," she says. "And try to avoid some of the stereotypical linkages between Islam and violence."

Additionally, Hallowell suggests advocacy groups could work with media outlets to get more balanced coverage of Muslim communities into the mainstream.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL