The Sentinel is a weekly newspaper with a circulation of 3,500, soaring to 4,500 in the summer months. It is not the kind of paper that practices the kind of snide, cynical, city-slicker style of journalism exemplified by this article. It's the kind of newspaper where many stories consist mostly of local people's names. You can get into The Sentinel merely by having your birthday.
Different news entities serve different constituencies. As one might expect, that has a marked effect on the focus of the organization in question. An American newspaper like The New York Times
serves an international constituency. The paper's management can make no predictions regarding the location of its readers. As a result, its reporters are free to write stories detailing how a given issue affects — well, the world.
On the other hand, consider The Normalsville Argus,
serving the fine citizenry of Normalsville, Kansas, population 27,000. Unlike The Times
, The Argus
knows exactly from where it draws its readership. As a result, the paper's reporters need to write stories of interest to its readers: the good people of Normalsville. If Congress passes a sweeping bill, a citizen of this small Kansas town can go to The Times
or The Washington Post
for the national impact of the legislation. He only has one place to go for his local news, however. Expect any story on the sweeping national legislation appearing in The Argus
to focus on its impact, however minimal, on Normalsville.
This isn't automatically a bad thing. In fact, journalism schools preach the concept of the "Local Angle
" to their students. After all, who else is going to report on Normalsville, KS if not the local paper? It does, however, tend to produce Unfortunate Implications
, insofar as the local press can seem to dismiss the lives of billions of people who don't live in their city, state or country. So if a ferry capsizes off the coast of Great Britain and 200 people drown, it will get a couple of inches in the Kenyan tabloid press. Spanish papers will give it a couple of pages. In Britain, it's "front page, get the black background out" news. However, if there was a Kenyan citizen upon that ferry then it will get more press with a caption along the lines of "One Kenyan man dead with 200 others in Ferry tragedy."
A subtrope of Creator Provincialism
and A Million is a Statistic
. Can overlap with Worst News Judgment Ever
when it's particularly egregious.
- Somalian piracy didn't get serious coverage in the US press until Americans got taken hostage.
- "X [Insert Nationality Here] people feared dead in [latest horrific event]" - Stock tabloid newspaper response to anything short of 9/11.
- Followed by "News for Wombats."
- Subversion, this common saying: "If an American farts, half the world will know."
- Any murder overseas by (insert person from insert home country here). Even if the murder was filmed on video and the foreign murderer confessed to doing it at the scene, expect the murderer's home country's media to get a year (and a TV movie) out of it as they call it offensive that the foreign police would arrest their countryman for a heinous crime.
- The Dutch satirical writer Battus once derived a formula to determine the perceived psychological impact of an event in which people died: the logarithm of (#dead / (distance * years past)). Impact goes down with distance, as well as with time elapsed since the event. It goes up with the number of casualties, and all of this logarithmically, as 1000 versus 100 casualties give about the same increase in sense of impact as 100 versus 10. The formula, he notes, is correct also for the edge case that time = 0 and distance = 0, which is indisputably a most serious event for the individual concerned.
- The newspaper examples below are roughly similar, but as Battus is a mathematician in Real Life, this one has a scientific basis.
- Finnish satirist news blog Lehti ran an article titled "A Finn Equals 4 Alligators", also giving the "official" numbers of tragedy in news. Ten thousand Africans equal 1,000 Asians or other non-whites, equal 100 non-nearby whites, equals 10 nearby whites, which equals four alligators, equals one Finnish person "if you know them". They also ran an article assuring that there were "No Finnish Casualties Among the Dead Pope".
- A similar rule applied to some British newspapers: "One Brit equals 10 Frogs (Frenchmen) equals 100 wogs (non-Europeans)".
- A different version of that is, "One dead in Putney equals 10 dead in Paris equals 100 dead in Turkey equals 1,000 dead in India equals 10,000 dead in China."
- Parodied by Have I Got News for You: they showed a clip of a horrible accident and then assured the audience that "although that accident looked serious, nobody involved was actually British."
- Some mid-market tabloids will try to link an international story to something its readership care about... like house prices. Private Eye ran a mock Daily Mail headline talking about how the Fukushima nuclear meltdown after the 2011 Japan earthquake was lowering house prices.
- Then there are local papers, which ignore stories like "global thermonuclear war breaks out" in favour of 'local interest' stories. London's "Evening Standard" is notorious for reporting a rumour of a strike on the London Underground as its headline, pushing things like the assassination of the Pope onto page 2, while more provincial papers have archetypal headlines like "Edlington man has ferret stolen from back garden".
- A (possibly apocryphal) extreme: when heavy fog prevented all traffic between England and Europe, one newspaper ran the headline "FOG IN CHANNEL, CONTINENT ISOLATED".
- While Canadian news outlets tend to report non-local news reasonably well, if any Canadians were involved, they will mention numbers, if not names.
- Many news agencies will still mention the number of Canadians killed on 9/11 when doing stories related to the tragedy. Likewise for the Indonesian Tsunami.
- Whenever an earthquake or some other natural disaster occurs in a foreign country, Swedish newspapers of the sleazier kind will invariably feature headlines bemoaning the fact that there were Swedes among the killed and not even trying to look lik they care about the other victims.
- When a big local story happens, the local newspaper will have quick access to witness accounts, police statements and photographs. With big international stories they have to get their stories from news agencies. So if two big stories happen the same day, they will often run the local story as the main story since they have most of the material for the story at hand. The international story will get top billing the next day when they receive something reliable to print. Since most people will be already aware of the big international story from TV, the newspaper will look like it is late on the uptake.
- Spoofed in National Lampoon's Vacation where Chevy Chase is reading a newspaper with the headline: AMERICAN COUPLE MISSING AS JAPAN SLIDES INTO THE SEA.
- Parodied on Parks and Recreation. Leslie comments on how a local kid went to the Olympics once and the local media reported on it for over a year afterward. The punchline is that said kid was an audience member rather than a competitor.
- In many countries, national media will nonetheless focus on the local stories from the city where the paper itself is made, even if they are aimed at basically everybody in the country. Then you have national Argentinian networks going on a special report about how it's raining in Buenos Aires...