Since most Americans do not know many Muslims personally, the media is often the main source of people’s information about them. This can be problematic, since in general the media tends to focus on negative events and issues and does not consider good news to be newsworthy. The media also has a fixation on sensationalism and hype since it attracts an audience. That is why the majority of news stories about Muslims are related to violence and terrorism. It is rare to see stories about the everyday lives of Muslims who are ordinary people, at work or in school, let alone positive stories about the contributions of Muslim Americans.
Media Tenor, a research organization that analyzes mass media, reported that between 2007 and 2013, 80% of news coverage of Muslims on ABC and CBS and 60% of coverage on Fox News was negative, usually focusing on terrorism and violence.
Additionally, when a Muslim commits an act of violence the media tends to focus on the act more than when it is committed by a non-Muslim. A study by researchers from Georgia State University and the University of Alabama found that an attack perpetrated by a person who identifies as a Muslim receives on average four-and-a-half times more media coverage than an attack perpetrated by a non-Muslim. This means that a small fringe (ISIS or other extremist groups or individuals) is seen as representing the entire Muslim community, painting all Muslims in a negative light. Media reports often mirror the government’s attitude towards a particular nation or group, and at present we are a country at war with certain Arab or Muslim groups or nations.
In addition, the media often misinterprets any action committed by a Muslim as a reflection of his or her religion, when the person’s motivation may have more to do with politics, economics, personal background, culture, or any number of other factors that are considered when discussing negative actions by people from other groups.