December 18, 2006

There’s headlines, then there’s HEADLINES.

Filed under: Uncategorized — girlyswot @ 10:57 am

The thrust of latest Red Cross/Red Crescent World Disasters Report is that there’s lots of disasters that happen in the world every day that don’t get reported in the media. For example, every 90 minutes a Nepalese woman dies from childbirth. Every day. All year. And it’s not a headline. (Most die because they bleed to death — easily preventable).

There’s been a lot of discussion over the years what makes a headline and why some news just ain’t news. Why the media report heavily on disasters like the Indian Ocean Tsunami but not other disasters. Why, when there are more children who die every day from poverty than died in the tsunami, it’s not even a blip on an RSS feed.

So what does it take? What’s a headline? Here’s what various news editors and directors say:

1. There’s got to be the local connection. We’re a parochial bunch after all. They say that the Tsunami was a popular news story because it happened at popular holiday destinations.
2. Offer solutions — people want to hear that they can do something.
3. If you’re an NGO, pitch a story that you’d like to see in the news.
4. Develop personal connections with journalists — they’ll help ya if they know ya.

There’s nothing groundbreaking in that advice. And of course they don’t mention that reporting the news is not just about informing and educating the public. It’s about selling the product and making a profit. News editors are much more likely to go with the old chestnuts like sex, scandal and sensation. It reminds me of the joke:

Dubya and Rumsfeld are sitting in a bar. A journalist walks up to them and says, “What are you guys talking about?”
Rumsfeld says, “We’re planning a war in Iraq. We’re going to kill a million Muslims and a blonde woman with big tits.”
The journalist asks, “Why are you going to kill a blonde woman with big tits?”
Rumsfeld whispers to Dubya, “See! I told you they wouldn’t notice the million Muslims.”

Boom boom.


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