Hierarchy of death

Hierarchy of death is a phrase used by journalists, social scientists, and academics to describe disproportionate amounts of media attention paid to various incidents of death around the world.[1]


Definitions of the hierarchy of death vary but several themes remain consistent in terms of media coverage: domestic deaths trump foreign deaths, deaths in the developed world trump deaths in the developing world, deaths of whites trump deaths of darker skinned people, and deaths in ongoing conflicts garner relatively little media attention.[2][3][4][5]


British media commentator Roy Greenslade has been credited with coining the term while writing on the newsworthiness of those who died during The Troubles. Greenslade continues to critique the phenomenon including media reactions to the Boston Marathon bombings.[6][7]

Scottish journalist Allan Massie also writes frequently on the topic.[7][8]

Similar phenomenon

The hierarchy of death has been compared to missing white woman syndrome.[9]

The "bus plunge" newspaper story: a short filler reporting deaths in a remote country used only if a small space on the page needs to be filled.[10]

Claud Cockburn claimed to have won a "dullest newspaper headline" competition while a sub-editor for The Times with "Small Earthquake in Chile. Not many dead".[11][12][13]


  1. Keating, Joshua (2013-04-22). "Is it wrong to care more about 4 deaths in Boston than 80 in Syria?". Ideas.foreignpolicy.com. Retrieved 2013-04-29.
  2. Greenslade, Roy (2007-04-19). "A hierarchy of death". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2013-04-29.
  3. Karpf, Anne (2001-11-28). "Anne Karpf: The hierarchy of death". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-04-29.
  4. Goldberg, Jeffrey (July 23, 2014). "Obsessing About Gaza, Ignoring Syria (And Most Everything Else)". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  5. R. L. W.; G. D. (August 12, 2014). "Comparing conflicts". The Economist. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  6. "Sian murder says a lot about media's values". London Evening Standard. March 30, 2011.
  7. 1 2 "The hierarchy of death: Boston's bombings shock us more than the silent drone war in Pakistan. But should they?". The Telegraph. April 24, 2013.
  8. Massie, Allan (16 April 2013). "Allan Massie: Keep Boston bombings in perspective". The Scotsman. Retrieved May 29, 2015.
  9. Jones, Owen (2013-04-21). "Owen Jones: Our shameful hierarchy - some deaths matter more than others - Comment - Voices". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2013-04-29.
  10. Shafer, Jack (November 2011). "The rise and fall of the "bus plunge" story.". Slate. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  11. Navia, Patricio (2010). "Small Earthquake in Chile: Not Many Dead". LASA forum. Latin American Studies Association. 41 (3): 6–8.
  12. Shapiro, Fred R. (2006). The Yale Book of Quotations. Yale University Press. p. 161. ISBN 9780300107982. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  13. Hitchens, Christopher (2011-10-01). Arguably. Atlantic Books. p. 423. ISBN 9780857892577. Retrieved 28 September 2016.

Further reading

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/11/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.