Fifty hours after a video was broadcast showing the victims, including many children, of a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held Syrian town, the United States' army fired dozens of cruise missiles against a government-held airbase in Syria.

The US strike came 77 days into Donald Trump's presidency - two and a half months marked by unprecedented hostility between the US media and a new administration.

But nothing changes the narrative quite like pictures of a few Tomahawk missiles being launched into the night sky.

Nothing draws public opinion behind a President than ordering a strike.

Jamal Dajani, journalist and founder of Arab Talk

And the tone shifted.

Journalists praised Trump's "decisiveness", his "morality" and the might of the US military. His actions were described as something Trump has seldom been accused of - being "presidential".

There are plenty of media angles in this story: from the haunting images of victims of chemical weapons, the effect the pictures are said to have had on Trump, to the video supplied by the Pentagon from those warships that are now driving the story.

"The media just falls in love with this affair," says media analyst Jamal Dajani.

"We've seen this time and time again. We've seen it in the first Gulf war. We've seen it in the second Iraqi war. The media did a 180, you know, going from attacking Donald Trump to praising him."

As horrifying as the pictures of chemical warfare are, news outlets are more likely to broadcast them than pictures of a bomb or mortar attack, legal forms of warfare that are considered too bloody, too much for audiences to bear.

The question then becomes what do we show and not show, points out Alessandria Masi, managing editor of Syria Deeply.

"We don't trust the public, as media. We think that oh, you know, they might be too shocked by these images ... but they also might get outraged like they have every time one of these stories has managed to push through. This conflict is one of the most documented wars in our history," she says.

Images of chemical attacks will always get substantial media coverage. But the coverage has grown less frequent.

Syria is perilous and expensive to cover. It is complex and confusing, with multiple factions and countries involved - and many news outlets have drifted away, returning only when the news turns dramatic. 

And when news coverage is more occasional than constant, that creates a lack of context that is ripe for exploitation.

"Our job as journalists is to get the pictures out there. Whether the right thing happens for the wrong reasons, that we cannot predict, but it is our job to tell these stories ... I think public outrage on Syria crimes is a good thing," says Masi.

Contributors:
Alessandria Masi, managing editor, Syria Deeply
Omar Al-Ghazzi, media scholar, University of Sheffield
Jamal Dajani, journalist and founder of Arab Talk
Sam Kriss, journalist

Source: Al Jazeera News