Head to the homepages of major news sites today, and you'll get the impression that the bombing near the Iranian embassy in Beirut, the early warnings about HealthCare.gov's technical problems, and the travail's of Toronto's scandal-saturated mayor are among the biggest stories in the world right now.
Or are they?
Defining what's news, as any editor will tell you, is an inherently subjective exercise, and a new set of charts by the Oxford Internet Institute's Information Geographies blog captures more than three decades of our efforts to do so.
The map above shows locations mentioned in news coverage of events between 1979 and 2013, as compiled by the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT). Researchers Mark Graham and Stefano De Sabbata pored over the database and isolated 43 million events in which the primary actors were located in different places, and then plotted the results. The brighter the line in the image above, the more links there are between locations.
It's a visual that offers some interesting insights about the countries that have dominated headlines since 1979. The United States emerges as a "core geographical focal point" for the events tracked, according to the researchers, most often appearing alongside Afghanistan, China, Iran, Iraq, Israel, and Russia in articles about international affairs. Don't be fooled by the fact that the American Midwest appears in the map as a hive of activity—when actors are assigned a country but not a city or town in GDELT's data set, they appear in the geographic center of that country.