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The recent Sydney hostage incident has again highlighted the role of the media in covering such events.

One recurrent aspect of these incidents is a demand for attention, whether from desperate or disturbed individuals, or more organised terrorist or other ideological groups; accordingly, the argument is that media attention, especially of the sort that emphasises the agenda and personal stories of the perpetrators, only serves to encourage future such incidents by giving these individuals or groups the attention they are seeking.

Specifically, one could ask:
– Should the media focus on the perpetrators in the first place, or deliberately refuse to publish such information and focus on the victims instead?
– In particular, should their ideological demands be publicised?
– More broadly, do the media have an obligation to fulfil this greater social responsibility, or should their responsibility as companies be to their shareholders instead? Should governments intervene accordingly, and why or why not?

Media now, of course, also includes the use of social media, which partly diversifies traditional media reporting in terms of providing many more sources of information such as pictures, videos, first-hand accounts and opinions, but are also often reported on separately, with many articles tracking Twitter trends and the like. In this case, the predictable racist/xenophobic reaction to the Sydney crisis was countered with a campaign to assure Arabic and/or Muslim minorities in Australia.

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