Who defines ‘big news?’
Yes, Manchester horrified us, but why not other atrocities?
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.