Why Do Certain Stories Catch Fire?

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 8 2012 @ 1:41pm

by Patrick Appel

Bob Wright compares the limited coverage of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin to the wall-to-wall coverage of the Aurora massacre:

Some of this can be accounted for by the number of deaths–twelve vs. six–and maybe some of it by the theatricality of the Batman murders. But I think some of it has to do with the fact that the people who shape discourse in this country by and large aren't Sikhs and don't know many if any Sikhs. They can imagine their friends and relatives–and themselves–being at a theater watching a batman movie; they can't imagine being in a Sikh temple.

Wright makes some good points, but the coverage discrepancy also has a lot to do with the nature of the newscycle. News stories are like bush fires – they spread faster and burn brighter if time has passed since a similar event. The longer since pundits have had to chance to clear their throats on a particular issue the more likely they will feel compelled to speak up. After the most recent shooting, a few supporters of stricter gun control, like Fallows, reiterated their views, but most advocates and opponents of gun control had already said their piece after the Colorado shooting and stayed mum this time around to avoid redundancy. 

The Aurora shooting also occurred on a slow political news day and piggybacked on pre-planned coverage of the new Batman flick. The Wisconsin tragedy, by contrast, is buried under mounds and mounds of Olympics news.