The terrorist attack in Manchester on Monday night came as a shock to all of us on this trip. Our group has been careful during the day and at night, while also trying to take advantage of our opportunities as much as possible. Tragic incidents like this continue to remind me that it can happen to anyone at any time. I thought it would be unique to focus on the way the media reported the attack. I’ve observed a lot of small differences between Ireland and the U.S., such as how they don’t give you a lot of water at meals, you have to ask for the check while eating out, or using your Passport everywhere instead of a drivers license.
I chose this topic because I’m interested in how the United Kingdom and all of Europe covered the incident, compared to how the United States reported on it. I specifically looked at a major news network in each country, BBC for the U.K. and CNN for the U.S. The first thing that I noticed while researching articles from each news source was how difficult it was to find articles about the attack on CNN.com. On BBC.co.uk, I typed in the keyword “Manchester” and scrolled through hundreds or articles from the past week on the bombing. CNN was more difficult as the first few search results were about the Manchester United soccer team. A top result was also an article from 2001 about a bomb in the Manchester airport. It wasn’t until I went to CNN’s home page that I was able to find substantial information about the bombing. While the bombing was important and newsworthy, the national news trumps international news.
I’ve been cognizant of how the U.K. feels about Donald Trump throughout my time here. We’ve asked quite a few locals about their feelings about him and what they think of the United States since the election. Most people bring it up to us first and are genuinely interested in talking about it. I assumed locals would laugh and make fun of us, but many of them have showed us quite a bit of compassion and compare the 2016 election to Brexit. While watching the news about the Manchester attack on television at our hotel in Belfast, I noticed they focused on Donald Trump and his response to the attack. His now infamous comment about the “evil losers” who attacked Manchester was plastered all over BBC the next day. It’s clear that most locals think of Trump as a joke, but a few of them mentioned they agree with a lot of his philosophies and ideas. Below are some of the cartoons focusing on American politics that I saw around Belfast.
While scrolling through BBC articles, I was surprised to see many articles about the U.S.’s response to the attacks. A podcast on BBC disclosed that the U.K. is not sharing information about the attack with the U.S. and was “furious” that photos of the attack were leaked to the New York Times. It’s interesting that in the midst of a tragedy and significant turmoil in Europe, they continue to report on U.S. politics and are concerned about our position.
BBC also focused on writing about the victims and giving as much information as possible about the attack. CNN tended to lean more toward describing the terrorist and how they were connected to ISIS. This article went into significant detail about ISIS and the investigation to learn more information about why ISIS targeted this specific area. Because BBC focuses on the U.S. and the victims of the attacks, there isn’t a lot of room for information on the terrorists and groups involved in these attacks. Europeans don’t appear to be denied any knowledge about the bombing or other attacks, it’s just different than the way I’ve noticed CNN and other U.S. news networks reporting on these tragedies. The U.S. tends to provide immediate information so we can combat these incidents and prepare for the future. Sometimes this attitude allows the media to report news too quickly and before they have a full story. This can lead to a lot of misinformation and ignorance.
I realize that it’s also important to consider that the BBC was covering an event that happened in their home country. The United States was an outsider in this scenario. Out of curiosity, I researched how the BBC covered the Orlando night club shooting in 2016, a similar situation that targeted young people at an entertainment venue. 22 people were killed in Manchester, while 49 were killed in Orlando. BBC did report extensively on the Orlando shooting, but focused heavily on the gun control debate. Many articles also related this incident to the election and highlighted the major candidates at the time and their gun control stance.
Consistent with my observations about the way the Manchester incident was covered, CNN’s top articles from Orlando started with information about the shooter and how he was able to carry out his plans. There were also a lot of articles and videos about the 911 calls placed in the night club and whether or not the perpetrator was homophobic.
While each incident was carried out differently, both were meant to be an attack on young people and their home country. The U.K. and Ireland chose to write and present the Manchester attack in a way that memorializes the victims and allows the world to weigh in on their politics and news. The U.S. seems to provide information quickly and aggressively attempts to find a solution and motivation for the attack, so as to prevent it from happening in the future. Neither process is necessarily better, but I think it does reflect the agenda of the country at that time and creates a culture of similar journalism and reporting across the nation.