They use media coverage and conflate it with "general public sentiment" and how "people think we die". While the wording seems to be carefully crafted that it avoids stating something outright wrong, it does suggest that they are the same.
Are there studies that compare media coverage with surveys on how people think we die?
I'm super stoked to see this project getting some more traction!
I was responsible for the visualizations / the scraping, so I'm happy to answer any questions people might have about the whole process.
Many people are pointing out that it's pretty obvious the news reports more on rarer events. True, but also people don't necessarily realize this when watching the news. I can anecdotally guarantee some of my family members fully believe that homicides are responsible for significantly more deaths than cancer.
100% of people die from being born. If this data is not segregated by age, it is pretty much meaningless. People don't die of "natural causes" or "old age" any more because the doctors are required to list something previously diagnosed on the death certificate (or else the doctor is looking at a lawsuit.) And the family member who happens to be there at the time of death is in no mood to put up an argument. No one wants to do an autopsy and invasive tests for a frail failing elderly patient are even worse.
Thanks!! It's kind of amazing how skewed our view of reality is. Saying "I don't care about terrorism" gets you dirty looks but is a reasonable approach to life if you live in wealthy country and are are trying to worry about things most likely to affect you.
I care about gun violence and knew it was overreported, but it blew my mind to find out that there are about twice as many deaths per year from just asbestos are there are gun homicides. I wonder how many other misconceptions there are? (Total gun deaths is much higher due to suicide and accidents)
There's a fascinating documentary called "A Certain Kind of Death", which shows what happens in the US when someone dies with no next of kin.
So, the media reports on rare, interesting things, not mundane everyday things? I'm shocked!
This is awesome! You might really like All the News That's Fit to Sell which is a deep dive into the media economics behind why things are covered — it gives lots of color for why coverage is the way it is (there's a famous journalism saying: "If it bleeds, it leads" — which speaks to the readership/profits that come from covering vivid deaths)
If useful, I did a similar analysis, but just for the NY Times vs WHO/CDC (I manually tagged an year of articles by cause of death vs. this article's ability to see across many years):
In 2015-6, the deaths that are most covered are a tiny fraction (<1%) of the way we die: https://www.nemil.com/s/part3-horror-films.html
You can also extend the analysis to see how death coverage varies by region (those who are culturally similar to us get more coverage):
How Media Fuels our Fear of Western Terrorism: https://www.nemil.com/s/part2-terrorism.html
Another good example that "data" is not always meaningful. The graphs help the idea "media are talking too much about terrorism".
All deaths are not equal. Most of old people die naturally from an heart failure or cancer, that the natural process of death. Homicides and accidents are not natural but common. Terrorism is an exception, that's why it so much covered.
100 old people dying from cancer do not worth 1 minute of press coverage, a family killed by a truck in a christmas market a bit more.
It's actually worse, because you have to factor in media attention, advertisement, bias etc to things that makes the problem worse; e.g. most of those hearts and respitory deaths can be attributed to pollution and lack of exercise, that means the car and all that it brings.
You are inundated with positive coverage of cars all over, they are vehemently supported in most pieces and comments. Pair that with;
Heart Disease 10.388 Under Car Accidents 2.285 Under Lower Respiratory Disease 3.520 Under
>"Although all diseases claim almost 1,OOO times as many lives as do homicides, there were about three times as many articles about homicides than about all diseases. Furthermore, homicide articles tended to be more than twice as long as articles reporting deaths from diseases and accidents."
Doesn't that make sense? If diseases kill 1000x more people, they are not news -- they're same old, what has been going on since forever.
Now, if there a novel disease or epidemic, sure, that would get coverage.
This week's episode of Science Goes to the Movies was a repeat from last summer on Emergency Medicine as portrayed in film/TV vs reality:
According to the charts, most people die of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
First, most people think their habits and diet are not leading them to a cardiovascular disease. Then, those conditions that primarily afflict a specific demographic. So it might not be as relevant to someone who is let's say, less than 40 years old.
I'd love to see room for competition in media that took a different path if it wasn't already all monopolies and bribes cough lobbying and the innefectuality of the FCC in it's mandate.
A strong fourth estate is essential to the proper functioning of the constitutional democractic republic.
Huh. Something like 1 in 20 people will likely have their lives end in a car accident.
Cf. xkcd #1468 How worried you should be when various things happen to you in movies vs. real life.
The mainstream commercial news in Australia seems to cover every unusual death that has occurred in the past day. I guess those kind of stories rate well.
Would be interesting to see this data for other countries, and comparing for example the overrepresentation factors for violence and terrorism.
Wow, terrorism really is overrepresented compared with how we die these days. I wonder if that's some kind of evolutionary echo of a more violent time when a leading cause of death for most humans was regional strife. We're apparently still pretty interested in who's out there somewhere, scheming to come and kill us.
this nonsense, as you need check YOUNG PEOPLE deaths, ye old die from disease, but that is general accepted path, what perfect news would blast is causes that kill people in their prime
Our brains look for/create drama + drama gets views. To the first point, I’m reading the book Factfulness, and it covers this stuff pretty eye openingly we’ll.