Who de­fines ‘big news?’

Yes, Manch­ester hor­ri­fied us, but why not other atroc­i­ties?

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - PAUL BER­TON Paul Ber­ton is edi­tor-in-chief of The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor and thes­pec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or pber­ton@thes­pec.com

In Manch­ester on Mon­day, 22 peo­ple were killed and 120 in­jured in a bomb blast. The news ap­peared in a small way on the front page of The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor, but some readers thought it wasn’t prom­i­nent enough, nor did they think the cov­er­age extensive enough.

The at­tack was what we call in the news­pa­per busi­ness a late-break­ing story, so more ink and pa­per would not nec­es­sar­ily have trans­lated into more in­for­ma­tion.

But it’s a good guess that many readers had al­ready gleaned plenty from thes­pec.com, which al­ways has the ad­van­tage of im­me­di­acy.

Per­haps readers sim­ply wanted the news­pa­per to sig­nal to readers on the front page that this was big news, which is self-ev­i­dent.

Decades ago, when news­pa­pers were hawked on street cor­ners, big front-page news sold copies, but most peo­ple to­day get the pa­per de­liv­ered at home. The hi­er­ar­chy of news is not as im­por­tant as it once was.

Mean­while, we did not get calls, de­spite sim­i­lar or lesser cov­er­age, about any num­ber of other at­tacks, in­clud­ing one by the Is­lamic State that killed 37 Iraqi refugees in Syria ear­lier this month. Was that dif­fer­ent?

What about an at­tack that killed 25 in Pak­istan ear­lier this month?

Or the ex­e­cu­tion this month of 47 pris­on­ers of the Is­lamic State in Iraq?

Or an at­tack in Libya this month that killed 141?

Or the 20 killed in one at­tack among many in Afghanistan this month?

Or an at­tack in Egypt Fri­day that killed at least 20?

Eng­land, Syria, Pak­istan, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt. All in the last 30 days.

No, there wasn’t enough cov­er­age of any of it, and it is all big news.

More than 50 have died in protests in Venezuela in May. Hun­dreds of thou­sands face star­va­tion in Su­dan and Ye­men.

Sev­eral dozen have been killed in ran­dom vi­o­lence in Los An­ge­les over the last month.

A Toronto Star story this week doc­u­mented 27 home­less deaths in Toronto in just three months. Death sur­rounds us. Ter­ror abounds. But there is also tri­umph amid the tragedy. Suc­cess among the many fail­ures. Hope against a back­ground of hor­ror.

Un­like elec­tronic me­dia, read­ing a printed news­pa­per is what they call a “lean-back” ex­pe­ri­ence.

As op­posed to lean­ing for­ward into your phone or your com­puter mon­i­tor, fin­gers at the ready on a key­board or a touch screen, scour­ing the web for in­for­ma­tion, news­pa­per readers of­ten lean back on the couch or at the break­fast ta­ble with a cof­fee and let the news come to them.

In­stead of rush­ing up to the buf­fet and look­ing for shrimp and roast beef, news­pa­per readers sit down for a leisurely five-course meal served at their ta­ble. Some meat and pota­toes, sure, but per­haps a glass of wine or a piece of pie. It’s not all hard news.

An opin­ion col­umn here, a pro­file there. A movie re­view per­haps, a cross­word puz­zle, a how-to ar­ti­cle, the lat­est gad­get ...

For many sub­scribers, it is not the news per se that keeps them read­ing; it is the friendly habit of a daily news­pa­per that helps make us not just in­formed about the lat­est news, but en­light­ened and en­gaged, amused and apoplec­tic, con­nected and cu­ri­ous.

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