Media scholars (see below for list) took a look at the news coverage of the Muslim communities and report that they expected to see it filled with negative stories of “terrorism and cultural differences that conflict with mainstream values.” But instead, found that “newspaper articles that contain references to Muslims and devotion are not as negative as stories about other aspects of Islam — and, in some cases, are even positive.”
Ultimately, the scholars findings were this: “If newspapers in liberal democracies increasingly cover devotional practices within their countries or interfaith dialogue across religious divides, they may begin to soften readers’ prejudices about Islam and Muslims — prejudices that are often reinforced by the media and that can have significant consequences for Muslims themselves.”
More snippets from their findings:
— For our analysis, we collected more than 800,000 articles published between 1996 and 2016 by doing database searches for the root words “Muslim” or “Islam” in dozens of newspapers from the United States, Great Britain, Australia and Canada. We compared these to a pool of over 100,000 randomly selected articles from U.S. and British papers across the same period. Interestingly, we found no significant differences before and after the 9/11 attacks.
— Overall, 78 percent of all articles mentioning Muslims or Islam have a negative tone… Unsurprisingly, we found the highest concentration of negative language in articles that were about security concerns or were set in foreign locations. Foreign stories are especially likely to focus on violence and war.
— Most articles about Muslims remain negative — with one exception. More than 37,000 articles included devotion-related words such as “devout,” “devotion,” “faith,” “pray,” “observant,” “fasting,” “pilgrimage,” “pious” or “piety.” Although they represent less than 5 percent of all articles we collected, on average, these were modestly positive… Most articles about devout Muslims discussed their faith in a neutral or positive manner.
— Many articles portrayed Islamic religious practices — like prayer or holiday observance — positively.
— Among our four countries, this set of articles contained language that was very slightly negative in Britain, slightly positive in Australia, more positive in Canada and most positive of all in the United States.
– Erik Bleich is a Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science at Middlebury College, where he directs the Media Portrayals of Minorities Project
– Julien Souffrant is a Middlebury College undergraduate and a member of the Media Portrayals of Minorities Project lab
– Emily Stabler is a Middlebury College undergraduate and a member of the Media Portrayals of Minorities Project lab
– Maurits van der Veen is associate professor of government at William & Mary, where he directs the STAIR lab