Reports & Briefs

Platforms & Publishers

Reports & Briefs

Tow/Knight Projects

How Should Journalism Cover Terrorism?

Emily Bell, Rafia Zakaria and Burhan Wazir explore what links terrorism, political rhetoric and media coverage, and how it impacts American Muslims.

Project Leader:



The Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia Graduate School for Journalism has partnered with Democracy Fund Voice as part of a project examining the links between terrorism, political rhetoric and media coverage — with particular reference to their impact on American Muslims.

The first of these reports, authored by Rafia Zakaria examines the premise that terror is a particularly Muslim problem and analyzes the key role that social media is playing in this issue. The full report, entitled “Hate and Incriminate: The US Election, Social Media, and American Muslims” can be found on the Columbia Journalism Review Tow vertical and an excerpt can be found here.

The second report, by Burhan Wazir, examines four key elections—which took place in Israel in 1996, the United States and Spain in 2004, and India in 2009—to explore the relationship between terrorism and how it is portrayed in the media. “Fear and the Ballot Box: How Political and Media Responses to Terrorism Influence Elections” can be found in full on CJR, and an excerpt can be found here.

The third report, by Charlie Beckett, looks at the problems facing journalism around terrorism: the increasing speed of the news cycle; new technologies and the limits on resources; the challenge of verification, definition, proportionality; and dealing with spin and propaganda. “Livestreaming terror: The nebulous new role of platforms” can be found in full on CJR, and an excerpt can be found here.

For an overview of this research, read Tow Center Director Emily Bell’s series introduction, “How Should Journalism Cover Terrorism?


About the Authors

Rafia Zakaria is an attorney, human rights activist, and the author of The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan (Beacon 2015), which was named one of Newsweek’s Top 10 non-fiction books of 2015. Her work has appeared in The Guardian Books, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, The New York Times, Al Jazeera America, Dissent, Guernica, and various other venues. Her next book will be published by Bloomsbury in 2017. She served on the Board of Amnesty International USA 2009-2015.

Burhan Wazir is an award-winning journalist and a former Head of Opinion at Al Jazeera English. He has been living in the Middle East since 2008. He has previously worked at The Observer and The Times of London, and was part of the core management team which launched The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates in 2008, where he was Weekend Editor.

Charlie Beckett is a professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and founding director of Polis, the LSE’s international journalism think-tank. Before joining the LSE, he was a journalist at the BBC and ITN. He is the author of SuperMedia and WikiLeaks: news in the networked era.

September 19, 2016