One thing from the BBC webshite that has been interesting me over the last months has been the Go Figure column, wherein a Beeb journalist throws statistics around and shows the reality behind them.
The latest column touches on something that interests me: how the news spends so much time talking about things that are pretty much statistically never going to happen again and ignores things that happen everyday.
I’ve named the phenomenon after the BBC’s Roger Harrabin, who puts it like this: “When considering societal problems over the long term, news-worthiness is often in inverse proportion to frequency. If problems become commonplace, they are not new – so do not qualify as ‘news’. This means the media often guides politicians to focus on less serious acute problems at the expense of more serious systemic problems.”
So we hear lots and lots about strikes and protests at the moment because there are so few of them; we don’t hear about the people saying “well, we have to get on with it because the last government spent our money like drunken sailors” precisely because so many people are saying that.
We hear about accidents in aviation and on the trains because they don’t happen every day, but car crashes do so they’re not newsworthy.
Personally, I think that the news you have to dig for is the interesting stuff: the things that aren’t considered newsworthy because they happen so often. The stuff that’s thrown on every front page is pretty boring after a day.
The fly in the ointment is celebrity and reality TV coverage, which apparently counts as major news despite proving that talentless oiks haven’t changed. I don’t know how we’ve arrived at a place where that is considered proper news on a daily basis.