An Open Letter to the US Media

An Open Letter to the US Media

1 January, 2016

My name is Kyle Smith. I am concerned about a choice we are facing as a nation. Our country is approaching a critical inflection point. We must decide how we want to live in a world filled with security threats. ISIS and related organizations threaten our security, in addition to issues such as climate change. The concern I hold for us is that we will choose to forego liberty for a false sense of security. I fear we will choose to isolate ourselves from others, both as a nation and as individuals.

We do have another choice. We can choose to come together. We can choose to maintain our liberty. That does not exclude us from being safe. In assert that we will be safer because we do.

The media is among the most powerful forces influencing our choice of how to respond to this problem. I was watching the NBC Nightly News as the details of security precautions around the globe had unfolded last night. The stories were framed as such: There is a lot of security out tonight, because we are in danger. This is common across almost all US media. That approach to framing the events emphasizes danger. It creates fear. I implore the media to change the way we frame these events. They should be framed as: We are safe, because our security forces are protecting us.

The events occurring in today’s world certainly are dangerous. They are scary. The randomness of the events we have seen in recent weeks adds significant uncertainty, and makes them even more fear-inducing. The fact, however, is that the likelihood of of being the victim of a terror attack is significantly higher than the likelihood of many other dangers. In October, 2015, a data scientist calculated the odds of being killed by a terrorist is 1 in 25 million. That is significantly higher than the odds of dying from electrocution (1 in 5,000), dying from a car accident (1 in 8,000), or becoming President of the United States of America (1 in 10 million). That doesn’t mean we should ignore this threat. I suggest that we do not use the threat to cause fear. (

Whether those odds stay the same, or plummet in our disadvantage, depends very much on how you frame events. For this reason, I implore you to change the way you report events. Focus on the security we have. Focus on how communities need to be involved with one another to improve safety. Close communities notice unusual events. Focus on how we will engender the spirit of our founding fathers and embrace our difference as strength. The choice the media makes right now matters.



Kyle Smith


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