Monday, 3 January 2011

No news today

This blog has long been interested in news stories that turn out not to be news at all – see the post for 7 August, ‘Not many dead’.

Over the slack period of Christmas and New Year there are always lots of these non-news stories. In fact there are often stories that are not only not news, they would only be news if the opposite were true. Let me explain.

On Christmas Day the BBC reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury had said in his Christmas message that the nation needed to get ‘closer to God’. It is of course reassuring that the Archbishop is fulfilling his job description, but it’s not really news. However, if he had said that we all needed to get closer to Beelzebub this Christmas, that would certainly have been news.

Similarly, on New Year’s Eve, the BBC reported on its hourly radio bulletins that Australians had already celebrated the new year. Given the global acceptance of Greenwich Mean Time and the way the world spins on its axis, it would only really be news if the Australians hadn’t actually celebrated the new year before us – although that news would be so worrying I don’t think I’d want to hear it.

Lord Reith famously wanted BBC news to avoid the strident voice and restless search for drama and human interest found in newspapers. A Good Friday news bulletin in 1930 simply stated: ‘There is no news tonight.’

This now seems very long ago.

Mundane quote for the day: ‘What speaks to us, seemingly, is always the big event, the untoward, the extra-ordinary: the front-page splash, the banner headlines … The daily papers talk of everything except the daily … We sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep.’ - Georges Perec

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