What is good media, anyway? Media networks might not admit it (shocker) but sensationalism actually works. The world of journalism has compromised accurate news reporting for the sake of increased revenue. There is a blatant existence of news story hype at the expense of truth and accuracy.
With the introduction of social media (you know, bloggers and virtual journalists), news just doesn’t sell the way it used to. There is an unimaginable level of competition amongst news agencies to traffic the most readers to their sites. The existing race to get the most clicks, the most views, and the most visitors drives the motivation behind the way news is reported. This is why we are seeing more viral videos on news sites that teach us nothing about the world by the end of the video. It’s also why deadly viruses like Ebola and terrorism (yes, terrorism is a virus amongst all humans) are covered daily as of late.
Fear drives sales. The world is fascinated with learning about things they fear. So in Western Christian nations, the easiest way to produce fear is to create a monster out of people who are foreign and unknown. The exaggeration of cowardly and lost Muslim extremists has become the news-selling poltergeist. People will tune in because Muslims live on neighboring streets, or in neighboring towns and states, so they are fascinated by how these humans living amongst them can be such “monsters.”
Media outlets would have no success portraying the same of Christian extremists in Africa because America is a predominantly Christian nation. It may be an over-generalization, but just entertain the thought for a moment: Christians are certain that their faith does not encourage or promote such evil acts. But they are not convinced of the same about other Abrahamic faiths (specifically, Judaism and Islam). This is also true in Muslim nations; Christians are seen as people who destroy lands for the sake of Christianity, under the guise of liberation and freedom. This is how media sells in those nations.
In short, it is important to understand the way media works. PR plans need to be prepared according to these challenges. Hype and sensationalism exist. It just cannot be denied. But avoiding the fact that this impacts faith groups in serious ways, and that a good PR campaign can alleviate tensions brought on by the media is just not sensible.