Inviting Intervention? International Media Coverage of Indiscriminate Violence

[joint work with Matthew A. Baum]

Abstract: This paper seeks to bridge the gap between three fields of research: civil war dynamics, comparative media systems, and third-party intervention. Using a new dataset of daily newspaper coverage of the Arab Spring across 2,728 newspapers in 114 countries and micro-level conflict data from the Libyan Civil War, we find that the technology of counterinsurgency violence has a profound impact on the tone and content of news coverage. Whereas selective violence (arrests, detentions, assassinations) generally does not create a major media backlash, indiscriminate violence (artillery and air strikes, armored assaults) turns newspapers away from human-interest stories and similar forms of ``soft news'' toward policy-oriented reporting and more open criticism of government policy.  We then conduct a survey experiment to investigate which types of coverage generates greater public support for intervention.