Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010, 2015 & 2017 elections (and THAT referendum)

News Values

Apparently the only news today is that a baby has not been born.

Whilst the birth of someone who will be third in line to the (UK) throne is important that cannot mean that the BBC (and other media outlets) need to go into “overdrive mode” – there is not enough information about this news item, yet it is driving all other information off the airwaves (well at least the first 20 minutes of a 30 minute bulletin).

“Never have so many people gathered in one place without anything to say” (BBC Newscaster outside the hospital).

It surely says something about the media’s news values.

24 hour news creates a vacuum which has to be filled, so fill it they will. If necessary no news story is too trivial to be covered and if there is not enough news they will fill the gap with speculation and gossip.

I suspect that major news outlets have “big story plans” and the button can be pushed by a relatively junior editor. It has obviously been pushed for the “royal labour”. Reporters and cameras have been despatched to:

  • The front door of the hospital: where there will be nothing to see until the parents walk out carrying their newborn for “the first photo”. This is unlikely to happen until after the birth has been announced (!), so there is no current need to have coverage there.
  • The front of Buckingham Palace: this at least is where we have been told (endlessly) the news will be published “on an easel in the forecourt”. So probably you need a camera crew there – but a reporter?
  • The National Railway Museum at York: The visit by the Prince of Wales has suddenly become nationally news-worthy – “in case he says anything”. He won’t.
  • To where-ever the Prime Minister is so he can give out a sycophantic witter. He will.
  • Bucklebury (the home of the mother’s parents) to cover “the excitement” (they struggle to find it).
  • To a helicopter to remind us what bits of London look like from the air.

Is this level of coverage appropriate and sensible use of licence-payer’s money? Of course not, but it does inflate the self-importance of the editor coordinating “the coverage”.

“Plenty more royal baby news to come after the sports news.” Really? if there was any genuine news I am sure that the sports news would be postponed. “She is still in labour” is not really news.

News coverage should reflect a number of things.

  1. Importance (i.e “The Public Interest”). This possibly dictates position in the running order, but not necessarily the volume of coverage.
  2. Information available. If there is not enough information, don’t pad! If there is lots of information don’t assume that makes the story important.
  3. Level of Interest (i.e. of “Interest to the Public”). Broadcasters subject to (1) don’t want to give out more information than the public wants. Likewise the broadcasters should not meet interest with waffle (see 2 ).

Hilary Mantel was right.

Single Post Navigation

3 thoughts on “News Values

  1. OK Update (BBC News Website 22 July 2013 Royal baby: Kate gives birth to boy):

    The Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a baby boy, Kensington Palace has announced.

    The baby was delivered at 16:24 BST at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, west London, weighing 8lb 6oz.

    The palace said in a statement that the duchess and the baby were “doing well” and would stay in hospital overnight.

    I think that says all that needs to be said – we can presume that various members of the family are “delighted” and that all sycophantic politicians send their best wishes (if would be news if they did not).

    However we currently (21:00) have news specials on:

    • BBC1
    • BBC News Channel (duplicate coverage)
    • ITV (carrying some pooled coverage common to BBC – including the inevitable Priministerial statement by the Prime Minister)

    How many pages will this stretch to in tomorrow’s Daily Mail? (see pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6?)

  2. Pingback: A Free Press? | Outside the marginals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: