"Russia and the United States are at war. Missiles have been fired by both sides. Washington and Moscow are in flames. Details on these and other stories in just a moment, but first, this word about hair care."
Exhibited by entire newspaper editing teams at our heroes' hometown papers, the Worst News Judgment Ever gets relatively mundane news stories placed in prominent locations (i.e., A1, above the fold, bannered across five or six columns, and with an overblown mug shot). Our heroes have an easy time finding whatever they happen to be looking for, with the use of a Magical Computer that somehow is able to search .jpg versions of the page in question with imprecise, convoluted or irrelevant text strings. That's if they don't simply see the paper in the paper-vending machine; with that sort of placement, you don't even need to buy the paper — it's all in the giant-print headline.
Usually, the news judgment is so wildly overblown as to cause disconnection from the audience; you will rarely, if ever, see a Lampshade Hanging pointing out this ridiculous fallacy. (We'd all love to see a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation where Catherine gets a puzzled look on her face and said, "Hmm, how come the acquisition of this small Las Vegas accounting firm isn't stuck in the business briefs on D-12?")
While improbable in the real world, the overplayed story in question usually provides our protagonists with a Red Herring.
On the other hand, if the main headline is earth-shattering enough, one may start to wonder why there are any other articles on the front page at all. When the main headline reads "Extinction of Humanity Imminent", then how in the heck is "New Petitions Against Tax" newsworthy?
In a comedy or an old movie, will manifest itself at the end of a Spinning Paper montage.
There is also an inverted version of this trope that is usually used intentionally for ironic purposes: an important story (often describing the events that occurred in the movie we've just seen) is shown stuck in a corner on the newspaper, while a vapid story (such as a celebrity scandal) sucks up the headline space. The paper is showing terrible judgement by emphasizing the wrong story. (Given, among other examples, the protest of MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski over having to lead with a Paris Hilton story when there were several more serious stories worthy of attention, this could be considered Truth in Television.)
This variant is almost always used as a commentary on society's preoccupation with meaningless gossip, but it is sometimes used to show that the world has virtually ignored a story that would have changed everything (such as proof of the existence of aliens, vampires, or similar). In this case, it's not so much bad judgement — the paper would have no way of knowing that the freak meteor shower was the remains of a destroyed alien invasion fleet — but probably still counts as an example of this trope because the audience knows that the small story is actually of critical importance.
Sometimes this will be used as a joke; the "main", plot-important story is used as the main headline, with an even more important story stuck in a corner. For example, in The Trapped Trilogy, one newspaper main headline was about a serial killer escaping. A smaller one was the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Often used to demonstrate that Old Media Are Evil. See also Local Angle. Kent Brockman News often features this.
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In the second Johnny Turbo mini-comic, Tony holds up a newspaper that had "FEKA's CD system failing in Japan!!" taking up the top third of the front page. Because low sales of a video game system is shocking, ground-breaking news.
Even more pointless when you consider that just because a product fails in one particular market doesn't make it a guaranteed failure anywhere else. Just ask any singer or comedian who found their failing careers re-energized by the enthusiasm of a foreign market.
After a fight between giant Mecha in Bokurano, a newscaster announces that, despite the fact that a behemoth appeared nearby and many of the aquarium animals were lost, the dolphins probably escaped to the ocean. Much to everyone's relief. The behemoth appearance was also responsible for the deaths of thousands but hey, dolphins are symbolic.
In One Piece, anything plot-relevant will always be in the front page of the papers. Apparently, the characters (or at least Trafalgar Law) expect this, since at one point, he tells Don Quixote Doflamingo that if Doflamingo's resignation from the Seven Warlords does not appear on the front page of the next day's paper, Law will not return Doflamingo's head scientist back. There is no mention on what Law would do if the announcement happened anywhere else in the paper. Indeed, Doflamingo's resignation was put on the front page, though the same paper also mentions the teaming up of several notorious pirate captains, Luffy and Law included, which is arguably a bigger world-shaker, placed in the newspaper's middle pages.
In the Marvel Universe, the Daily Bugle has been known to devote the entire front page to op-ed pieces such as "Spider-Man: Threat or Menace?", complete with banner headlines.
There was a fun story where Jonah tried to beat this habit, only for all his other ideas to be shot down by his editor. (For example, they tried to run a story about a supervillain's plot to kill New York with poisoned newspaper ink, which got shot down because it would make people paranoid about buying newspapers.) He eventually runs the "Spider-Man: Menace" story again, and the readership makes fun of him for beating a dead horse.
Come to think of it, in the very first Spider-Man story in Amazing Fantasy #15, Spidey makes the top front-page headline of at least four newspapers, apparently for doing nothing more than showing off his powers and webshooters in front of audiences. And this in 1962, the year, among other things, of Algerian independence, the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In a Spider Man arc by Todd Mc Farlane, Spider-Man went to Canada to investigate a string of savage murders allegedly committed by the Wendigo. During the arc, he encountered Wolverine, who revealed that a mundane human serial killer was the real culprit. The actual murders received banner 72 point headlines, but when the truth was revealed to the public, the retraction was buried on page 15 or so. Sadly, a case of Truth in Television (during the Mc Carthy hearings, while his flamboyant accusations were front-page news, whenever any of his accusations were proven wrong, the retractions were buried near the obituaries).
In a TV news example, the X-Men saved the Big Applesauce from one of the Mole Man's creatures which Channel 4 talked about for all of 30 seconds, despite spending two minutes on "That useless tart dancing topless in a nightclub" (to which Colossus replies, "Who is this Hilton girl again?").
In an Ambush Bug letter column, a reader suggested that the Daily Planet couldn't be such a great metropolitan newspaper if it kept running headlines like "SUPERMAN FOILS ALIEN GORILLA HOAX — Presidential election results on page 32."
Typical headlines in Transmetropolitan include things like "deranged artificial penises loose in water supply!" and "rogue Japanese ambassador starts 'onnabe' meme", some of the many reasons why Spider (himself a journalist) hates the city. Though once he harassed a senator for pictures of his penis, as a lead-up to a story on an illegal porn studio.
"Monkey Business," in issue #67 of The Powerpuff Girls has the girls' apologies for ruining Mojo Jojo's restaurant business twice making the front page of the Townsville Times.
Mike: Yeah, front page of the LA Times: '$40 Robbery, No One Hurt.'
The Beatniks. Mooney thinks he'll become famous because "I SHOT THAT FAT BARKEEP!"
The inverted version is shown in the movie Dog Soldiers: The screen shows an article depicting the events of the film, only to quickly pan out, revealing it as a secondary story to the main headline (the result of an International Football match). To to uninformed, the secondary story is about the only survivor of a British soldier unit, who were attacked by Werewolves.
The theft of fifteen puppies in 101 Dalmatians (live action) somehow makes the front page of a national newspaper, also the wedding of two nobodies is covered by The Independent. Of course this is Disney England, where the puppy crisis warrants a dozen or so squad cars to comb the Home Counties for these missing dogs. Never mind that there could be murderers to catch.
If one treats the puppies as human children, then the theft of that many puppies would be equivalent to a massive kidnapping worthy of the attention of the nation's law enforcement officials.
In Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, a kiss between Rita Marlowe (who is a Hollywood celebrity) and Rock "Lover Doll" Hunter (still not used to the fame he caught from Miss Marlowe) is displayed in a montage of newspaper headlines. Lampshade Hanging occurs with the headlines from foreign newspapers dissolving to "RUSSIA INVENTED LOVER DOLL" and "LOVER DOLL MUST BE FRENCH!"
Averted in Batman Begins at the end. While Bruce Wayne's mansion burning down would certainly qualify as front page news on a regular day, the villain's exploits and collateral damage usurp that story to page 8.
Alfred: Batman may have made the front page, but Bruce Wayne got pushed to page eight.
Played straight in Batman & Robin, where news of Bruce Wayne attending the opening of an observatory is the big front-page headline. Bemoaned by the Agony Booth here. "It must have been a slow news day". This example is particularly silly, given that Batman and Robin just fought Mr. Freeze in a very public battle with a whole lot of collateral damage.
Give My Regards to Broad Street — maybe. MUSIC EMPIRE COLLAPSES! as sole story on top of the fold of a paper? But since it's in the nightmare fantasy of someone who would consider that critical news, maybe it can be allowed to pass.
A plot point in Men In Black; the stories about aliens you see in the tabloid newspapers are real, it's just that no one believes them.
Agent J: These are the hot sheets?
Agent K: Best investigative reporting on the planet. But go ahead, read the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes.
Played with in the direct-to-video The Onion Movie. A woman witnesses a house explode on the other side of the street and calls the Onion News hotline. The following scene shows an Onion van arriving on the spot to report on her husband's missing socks, which makes the front page. The people in the neighborhood exhibit similar behavior, being far more interested in the presence of the Onion news team than the catastrophe that had just taken place.
In Patton, Patton makes a speech to a crowd of British women about how the Americans and British will rule the world, neglecting to mentions the Russians. Cut to newsreel proclaiming "Patton insults Russian allies". Possibly makes it Truth in Television. The Truth in Television version would've been even worse. Apparently, Patton did mention the Russians, but news reports didn't mention that.
However, (in the film version) this would have to be seen in historical context — even the slightest hint of a rift between Russia and the West would have had incredibly far-reaching and potentially catastrophic results during World War II, and that conflict did have a decisive impact on history for the next 50 years, so it makes sense that that part of Patton's speech would receive dramatically more attention than anything else he said (which was otherwise just what people expected from such a speech anyway.)
Damien: Omen II. Death in freak elevator "accident" does not warrant a front page.
Happens quite a bit in It Happened One Night, where Ellie Andrews' love life makes not only the front page of all the major New York papers, but is the top headline for every single one of them.
In My Name Is Bruce, an old newspaper has the headline claiming the birth of a two-headed horse. A smaller article announces a local spelling bee. An even smaller article mentions how one hundred Chinese immigrants were killed when a local mine collapsed.
At the end of Van Wilder, the main character's love interest gets a story published on the front page of the school paper chronicling Van's expulsion hearing. That's not the poor news judgment. That comes into play when you consider that the "story" is more of a trashy gossip column, filled with embarrassing sexual details about the writer's ex-boyfriend. Those sort of pieces do get published, but even a student paper isn't going to stick that on the front page of the graduation edition. Or any other edition, really.
Then there's the framed front-page story about the difference between light and dark beer... by a journalist who goes on to win a Pulitzer.
Low-budget D-movie Maneater is downright hilarious with this. At one point, it's revealed that USA Today and Entertainment Weekly are interested in a tiger killing some people in the Appalachian Mountains. The sense that doesn't make is extraordinary.
In the second Back to the Future film, in the alternate future (courtesy of Biff), Doc holds up a newspaper where the front page story is about how he was proclaimed insane and committed. While he is a strange, prominent figure in the town, it doesn't really merit the front page.
Particularly implausible is the fact that "Doc Brown" is used to identify him in the banner headline, while the sub head refers to him as "local inventor" or whatever. Because yeah, I'm sure only a minority of readers would require clarification.
Fridge Brilliance Biff owned the newspapers and has been running a smear campaign against the doc to discredit him.
That doesn't help any when the timeline is restored, though. Normal newspaper staff led their paper with "Brown Commended," which is almost certainly not front-page-above-the-fold material.
Jonathan Chait has harsh words regarding the editorial priorities of the Hill Valley Telegraph.
"Youth Jailed" (later "Gang Jailed") features as the front page headline of USA Today on October 22nd 2015. If you look closely it's actually an aversion; the newspaper is the "Hill Valley Edition," meaning that neither the robbery nor the destruction of a local landmark necessarily made national news. Both events could have merited a front page headline in a local paper.
Apparently, in the world of My Pet Monster, a dog being the favorite to win a dog show is worthy of the front page.
In The Great Muppet Caper, Kermit and Fozzie, playing reporters, spend the opening number surrounded by a balloon crash, a jailbreak, and general mayhem culminating in a daring daylight jewel robbery. This last, which sets off the plot of the movie, is the cover story in every major paper - except Kermit and Fozzie's, which runs the headline "Identical Twins Join Chronicle Staff". Their editor is furious not only because of the huge missed story, but because Kermit and Fozzie don't even look alike.
That's because Fozzie had his hat on.
S1m0ne had a radio broadcast version when the reporter said that things like the threat of nuclear destruction have all been overshadowed by the preparations for the Academy awards.
In Osmosis Jones, there are two instances. Frank vomiting on Shane's teacher manages to make the front page in major newspapers across the country. This starts to be Refuge in Audacity later, though:
Frank: I know your daughter, Hurley, had to transfer schools...
Mrs. Boyd: Shirley. My daughter's name is Shirley.
Frank: Oh, that is much prettier. Tom Brokaw called her Hurley.
Later the newscasters for NNN are giving a desperate last broadcast after Thrax takes the DNA bead, saying they have "lost contact with the lower extremities", the screen flickering and sound full of static, when one starts to introduce a segment about "household appliances that can improve your golf swing!". This is lampshaded: the other screams at her for being a moron.
In It Could Happen To You. The New York Post suffers from this constantly with such important front page headlines as "Cop Tips Waitress $2 million", "Dead Father picked lottery numbers" and "Cop Marries Waitress".
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.
Apparently, in the Zombiverse (as seen in Zombi 3 D), reports of the ongoing zombie problem are more important for a music station to broadcast than is actual music.
This is a key plot point in The Paper: on the day when every other news outlet in the New York area leads with the story of the apparently racially-motivated murder of two white financiers, the eponymous newspaper, the New York Sun (which was actually an Expy of the New York Post, and not the Real LifeNew York Sun), led with a story about one of their columnist's cars being towed.
Dave Barry mocked the once-prevalent use of this trope in political campaign ads in Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway. In his satirical campaign ads, both candidates used "realistic newspaper headlines" with illegible articles, the headlines detailing all sorts of atrocities committed by the opponent. In one of his year in review columns, he described the North Koreans becoming increasingly bored and annoyed since they invaded and took over the U.S. and it hadn't made the news at all. Eventually they figure out a solution: start a Reality TV show. The show is called something along the lines of We Have Taken Over Your Country Imperialist Pigs. Which quickly got canceled because nobody in the show was blonde.
Left Behind: Every child on the planet has just disappeared, along with a great many Christians. The planet is plagued by horrific plane crashes and car accidents as a result. The Pope himself is gone, and the Catholic church has fallen into disarray. What stories do Global Weekly consider the most important to cover? A convention of Jews in New York, and a recent recall election in Romania. This stuff wouldn't be front page material on a slow news day.
"Ladies and gentlemen we have an urgent news bulletin! A minor reporter from the midwest who you have never heard of and who nobody but his 3 friends give a flying fuck about, is feared dead following a "mysterious car bombing"! In other news, all children in the entire world vanished last night, experts say it was likely the result of "excess electromagnetism" or some shit, so in other words we have no idea and it could happen again to all of us at any second. In sports news...
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry is lying down next to the window in order to hear the TV news to see if there is anything about mysterious disappearances or deaths, which would tell him that Voldemort is moving. Instead, he ends up hearing a newspiece about a bird that has learned water skiing in order to keep the heat away.
Although it is made clear that this is the traditional silly/'feel good' at the end of the news bulletin and not a lead story. Harry is also sensible enough to note that if they had enough time during the broadcast for water-skiing birds, there clearly weren't any murders that day to report on.
In the third book, Ron's family winning a large cash prize in a contest run by the paper is the leading article. Granted, the newspaper would want to toot its own horn, and they'd probably mention it somewhere on the front page, but that's still not enough to make it the leading story. Especially considering that barely a month earlier, a teacher lost his memory, a student nearly died, and a prominent citizen lost his position on the Hogwarts Board of Governors. And all this under suspicious circumstances, in a children's school which most wizards consider to be the safest place around. You'd think they'd at least have pointed out that one of the kids featured in the article was the girl who almost died at Hogwarts.
In the Alex Rider series, the death of a small time journalist is on the front page. Justified, because he wasn't really dead, it was MI 6 trying to scare him out of revealing the truth about Alex, so they had to make sure he saw the story.
** "Toad News Network was the top news station, Lydia Startright their top reporter. If there was a top event, you could bet your top dollar that Toad would make it their top story. When Tunbridge Wells was given to the Russians as war reparations there was no topper story — except, that is, the mammoth migrations, speculation on Bonzo the Wonder Hound's next movie or whether Lola Vavoom shaved her armpits or not. My father said that it was a delightfully odd — and dangerously self-destructive — quirk of humans that we were far more interested in pointless trivia than genuine news stories."
** [upon finding a new Shakespeare play] "He showed me a copy of The Owl. The headline read: ‘New play by Will found in Swindon’. The Mole had the headline: ‘Cardenio sensation!’ and The Toad, predictably enough, led with ‘Swindon Croquet Supremo Aubrey Jambe found in bath with chimp’."
Somewhat lampshaded In Jeffrey Archer's The Fourth Estate. Richard Armstrong goes into a tirade against the editor of one of his newspapers that led with "Extra Benefits for Nurses" while his rival Keith Townsend had his newspaper lead with "Top Pop Star in Drug Scandal". The editor replies that the pop star in question had never had a hit in the top 100 and was caught smoking a joint in the privacy of his own home. After Townsend pulls more stunts like a bingo contest and a nude on page three, Armstrong eventually fires his editor.
Noticeably averted, considering it's all about newspapers, in The Truth, at least with William de Worde's newspaper. The one front-page major headline mentioned is "PATRICIAN ATTACKS CLERK WITH KNIFE (he had the knife, not the clerk)", which apart from the clarifying aside is something newsworthy in Ankh-Morpork. That's not to say small things don't get mentioned (i.e. a resident confirming it's the coldest winter on record and a Running Gag about men bringing in amusingly-shaped vegetables) but they get mentioned in proper human-interest, society or odd-news sections.
Live Action TV
HLN. Critics contend this spin-off news network of CNN places heavy emphasis on events or items of little to no news value — fluff human interest items, "Missing White Woman Syndrome" cases and "humorous" police news, dubious medical/consumer news and/or advice, "fads," Hollywood/sports news and rumors, overblown coverage of certain criminal trials (e.g., Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias), and confrontational editorializing — over-serious investigative/watchdog journalism and commentary.
Relating to CNN, this troper believes that this article probably sums up the issue well. It was written on May 9, 2013 and was about Missing White Woman Syndrome, and the fact that there seemed to be only three stories that the media wanted to follow: the Jodi Arias murder trial in Arizona, the rescue of three women kidnapped and held captive in a Cleveland house for over ten years, or Amanda Knox.
Parodied on Corner Gas, where the small-town newspaper is deliberately, ridiculously sensationalist; for example, when the town gets stop signs at an intersection, the headline is "Crosswalk Hell". Many characters make it a point to skip right by the front page to find something interesting.
This is Truth in Television at a lot of small-town Canadian papers. One newspaper in small-town Alberta had as its main story one day..... the breakage of some flowerpots on the main road under the screaming headline "DESPICABLE VANDALS STRIKE AGAIN". The date was September 12, 2001.
Not exactly, no. A smalltown community newspaper would not particularly be expected to be covering 9/11, or any other news at all that's happening outside its own town, in the first place. See, that's what the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal and The Globe and Mail are for, not the Palookaville Weekly Shopper.
The first season of 24, which was still in production when the 9/11 attacks happened, has a plane explode in midair in the first episode, and then drop off the news cycles very rapidly (and being replaced with "Super Tuesday Coverage") for obvious reasons. Later seasons somewhat avert this though.
In one sketch, a character reads a newspaper which has an advert for a breakfast cereal as the banner headline and main story, with "World War III declared" squashed in the bottom of the page.
In another episode:
"Well, everyone is talking about the Third World War which broke out this morning. But here on Nationwide we're going to get away from that a bit and look instead at the latest theory that sitting down regularly in a comfortable chair can rest your legs."
Played with occasionally on The Colbert Report since the show won a Peabody award. Colbert will mention the Peabody at the top of the show, and lead into more 'award-winning journalism' - only for the top story to be the most irrelevant garbage he could find. (They can't take the award away, so why not?)
The fact that both The Colbert Report and The Daily Show have won Peabodys for outstanding excellence in journalism means they have to try that much harder to remind people that they are both comedy shows. As far as Jon Stewart and the real Stephen Colbert are concerned, they'd rather the awards go to actual news organizations. For added irony value, the Stephen Colbert character is, in large part, a parody of Bill O'Reilly who, on multiple occasions, has been caught claiming to have won a Peabody in spite of the fact that he never actually did.
Smallville featured an episode where the entire front page of the Daily Planet was devoted to a bank robbery. The commentary track joked about how you don't get a font that big unless the world is ending.
A more recent episode had the Daily Planet featuring Lois Lane's historical report on a former hero society up on the front page. Apparently nothing happened anywhere in the world that day.
In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Girl In Gold Boots", one of the characters in the movie robs a gas station. Later, he is seen laughing as he reads about it in the newspaper. Mike Nelson comments, "Yeah, front page of the L.A. Times- 40 dollar robbery, nobody hurt!"
This is actually something of a Running Gag on MST3K, as the mock-up newspapers used in old movies tend to have extremely bland filler stories on the front page alongside the plot-related headline (and of course the guys lampshade it). Further details can be found on the Wikia page "New Petitions Against Tax".
Babylon 5. Londo is visibly annoyed when the article on him becoming Emperor of the Centauri is overshadowed by banner headlines about comedy duo Rebo and Zooty.
Used as the big clue in a Jonathan Creek episode. Tourists have taken footage of the still living murder victim in the park while someone reads that morning's newspaper. The editor of the local newspaper was in on the plot and produced a copy of the newspaper front page ahead of time to film the victim before she was murdered. They then staged the story in the pre-printed headline. This explained why a big story was bumped to the third page.
A Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Conan O'Brien contained a skit about the career of a boxer from the early 20th century. It ended with a headline about his retirement but under that was a small blurb about the beginning of World War One.
A 1980 Saturday Night Live sketch spoofed the concept by having a panel of journalists discussing the big issues of the day. The catch was that four of the five reporters were from supermarket tabloids. Buck Henry's character, a serious journalist from a legitimate publication, was increasingly dumbfounded by the others' dismissal of important issues such as the upcoming election and the state of the nation's economy in favor of alien encounters and Elvis sightings.
Back in the 70's, there were months of daily reports in the "legitimate" media that Generalísimo Francisco Franco is still alive (at least until his death). At that point, Saturday Night Live weekly news anchor Chevy Chase announced every week that Generalísimo Francisco Franco was still dead.
The Chaser, similar to The Onion example, parodied this in the wake of a scandal surrounding AFL star Wayne Carey with "Iraq war continues, Melbourne newspaper struggles for Carey angle". Another episode revealed that the news of Chas Licciardello's arrest for selling fake weapons outside a Canterbury Bulldogs game had been the top story on one radio station, followed by Israel declaring war on Lebanon.
Lampshaded on Home and Away when Robbie couldn't believe that the front page story in The Coastal News was a planned resort for the bay being announced, only a day after the apparent death of serial killer Eve Jacobsen/Zoe MacCallister, AKA the Summer Bay Stalker.
Just about every instance of the Bluth family landing itself in legal trouble on Arrested Development makes the nightly news. Reporter John Beard wants to be sure viewers know "What this means for your weekend!"
In the second series of Prison Break, it seems unlikely that the Fox River Eight would receive so much media attention considering the President of the United States died in suspicious circumstances on the night of their escape.
One of prisoners was convicted of killing the new President's brother, which would hype the prison break story. Still, given a headline of "President Dies" or "Eight Escape Prison" it isn't hard to figure which should have gotten the headline. Also, a few of the later news stories were placed as traps by the FBI.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip takes place in the world where the revelation of a decade-old drunk driving arrest of a network executive (not star... executive) is able to hit the top of the news-cycle... Can most people even name a single network executive?
Likewise, on The West Wing, the panic over the photographs of Sam with his High-Class Call Girl friend Laurie already seems slightly out of proportion — we can just about accept that Sam is a well-known face in the TWW world, but most people in real life probably don't know there's such a position as White House Deputy Communications Director, or who fills it — and then C.J. announces that the paper they were sold to is the Daily Mirror. In order for the British tabloids to care about an American speechwriter's platonic hug with a prostitute, they would have to have run through not only every scandal they could unearth about their own government and celebrities, but every scandal they could make up about their own government and celebrities.
The Goodies. In "War Babies" banner headlines declare that a woman has given birth to a full-sized Bill Oddie, whilst in a tiny corner of the newspaper is the news that World War II has just started.
A humorous variation is done in Being Human, where Cutter proudly announces to the vampires elders his plan to out werewolves to the world, tricking humans into turning to vampires for protection. He goes to prove his accomplishment by turning on a TV...only to find reality shows. The clips of a live werewolf that he knew multiple people recorded were nowhere to be seen. The vampires elders are not impressed. We later find out that it's justified. The news didn't focus on the werewolf clips because they never got them. An organization suppressed them all.
Doctor Who: In "The War Machines", the death of a tramp makes the front page of The Times. Actual deaths in 1966 included writers Evelyn Waugh and C.S. Forester, actors Buster Keaton and Montgomery Clift, comedian Lenny Bruce and Captain Cook's 200 year-old tortoise. Their deaths did not make the front page of The Times.
The Onion would have many examples of this if it weren't a parody newspaper and not obligated to do real reporting. However, "No Jennifer Lopez News Today" is a parody of this trope: a story about reporters desperate to find reasons to reprint the famous photo of Lopez in her Grammy Awards dress (which is printed twice alongside the article).
And a photograph in the article shows a stack of videotapes with labels like "Library of Congress Demolition" and "Albrightnote Madeline Rape Footage".
Our Dumb Century had an article about the 1992 Somali genocide being ignored by Americans in favor of "Dream Team Excitement" (the U.S. Olympic basketball team).
In 2008, People magazine ran a cover story about Ellen Degeneres getting married to Portia De Rossi. The story about American Michael Phelps being the first person EVER to win all 7 gold medals in swimming got a tiny little mention in the corner. An Op Ed later chewed them out for it.
Same thing happened in 2011 when they ran a cover story about relation troubles between the current The Bachelor couple, and demoted a story about the recent earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan to a small thumbnail image on the top left corner.
Private Eye parodies this sort of thing regularly in the 'Colour Section', with common versions being popular celebrity news being rewritten as a story "Exclusive to All Newspapers" and described in straightforward, "Man Rides Bike" style - often with a mention of a far more important story being on Page 94. It's "Street of Shame" (Newspaper News) section may instead attack such things directly, and it also has the occasional feature "Going Live" to note the more absurd examples of a journalist standing on the street outside a house where something interesting happened several hours ago.
The death of a single drug addict makes the front page of the Los Angeles Times in Eazy E's "Boyz N Tha Hood." "Little did he know I had a loaded 12 gauge/ One sucka dead, L.A. Times front page."
Joe Jackson takes several shots at the British tabloids and their front-page stories in his song "Sunday Papers":
If you want to know about the gay politician
If you want to know how to drive your car
If you want to know about the new sex position
You can read it in the Sunday papers, read it in the Sunday papers
Played straight in Apartment 3-G in June 2009, where a major news network breaks into programming to announce the return of a minor Tibetan lama from China. For bonus points, the reporter mentions the name of the man who accompanied him - Margo's erstwhile fiancée.
There was an unsold Doc Savage newspaper strip that was shopped around to newspapers in 1936. (The first week's worth of strips were eventually published in Doc Savage: Manual of Bronze from Millennium Comics.) The first strip had a villain reading a newspaper that proclaimed as its lead story 'SAVAGE TO SAIL ON THE CAMERONIC', with a subheading 'Famous Adventurer Refuses Interview - Will Not Make Statement'. So the lead story is that someone is sailing on an ocean liner and refusing to talk about it. The mind boggles as to what the rest of the article must have contained.
Although the placing of this article on page 1 is a prime example of this trope, stories like this commonly appeared in newspapers of the time. People were fascinated by the travel plans of celebrities, and if they were intending to travel they'd pick a ship based more on who they were sailing with than on the safety or comforts of the vessel in question.
Found in FoxTrot, where Andy is watching the OJ Simpson trials. Suddenly, breaking news: aliens have landed and are now addressing the UN! Amazing! Now back to the OJ Simpson trials...
The title hero of Mark Trail loses his beloved puppy. This apparently is so important that the newspaper runs a two-column story on the disappearance, complete with an enormous picture of the dog.
One political cartoon involved aliens coming to Earth and saying such things as "We come in peace and bring a cure for cancer." Meanwhile the news reporters are running the opposite direction yelling "J-Lo had twins! J-Lo had twins!"
An old Bob & Ray bit has intrepid newsman Wally Ballou interviewing a cranberry salesman in Times Square, even as sirens, gunshots, screams, etc. are heard in the background.
Stand Up Comedy
George Carlin in the 60s, playing a news anchor making a commercial for the news in a half hour: "The sun did not come up this morning, huge cracks have appeared in the earth's surface, and big rocks are falling out of the sky. Details 25 minutes from now on Action Central News."
Chris Rock joked in 2004 that George Bush was trying to distract us from the war in Iraq by making news stories that the media would cover instead. He was the one who sent the girl to Kobe Bryant's hotel room, he killed Laci Peterson, he sent the little boy to Michael Jackson's house, and he made Paris Hilton's sex tape.
The title screen of Paperboy is a newspaper declaring on the front page that "Amazing Paperboy Delivers!" If he runs out of lives or loses all his customers, his subsequent firing makes the front page as well. And if he makes it through the week alive and retires (after just one week?!)... same thing. Newspaper delivery truly is Serious Business. Some Fridge Logic here: if no one is reading the paper, is it news? The paperboy example is, of course, spoofed in the movie Press Start.
A running gag is that no one reads Aya's Bunbunmaru newspaper in Touhou, which probably has to do with the second running gag that Aya can't keep a straight story, will often ignore facts or focus on the wrong details, or write outright useless stories that will be weeks old when the paper is finally distributed.
A former police officer being convicted of poisoning a customer is definitely newsworthy. However, the news article Gumshoe brings Phoenix in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations says absolutely nothing about the case (not even the defendant's or victim's name) and focuses on what a shoddy defense Phoenix gave her. True, his defense was inexplicably poor and the idea that he might have essentially thrown the case might be newsworthy, but at the expense of all other information? Of course it wasn't Phoenix at all, but Furio Tigre dressed as Phoenix.
In recent Pokémon games the TV-news-crew apparently have nothing better to do but follow you around and tell their audience about stuff like you catching a Level 3 Bidoof, or inform the world that your plants need watering. Never mind that there's an evil organization about possibly stealing Pokémon and trying to destroy the world...
Similarly, most of the Pokemon News Flash segments in Pokemon Channel (particularly the ones with Meowth) mostly have news that's not only trivial, but also virtually pointless.
Max Payne: Max sees a bunch of newspapers and newscasts with a story about the murder of his colleague. On the very same night he was murdered that is.
The newspapers ending each level in Hitman: Blood Money will always give the 72 point treatment to whichever assassination 47 has just pulled off. Meanwhile, stories like the death of the United States vice president are relegated to minor blurbs.
To be fair, the people 47 kills are fairly public figures. Also, most newspapers read throughout the game are foreign papers, so something like a foreign country's VP dying WOULD be relegated to a minor article.
In Super Mario Sunshine, the Delfino Emergency Broadcast System will frequently scroll plot-important updates across the bottom of the screen. Generally, these involve things that would genuinely qualify as important news in this world, such as the kidnapping of Princess Peach or the game's villain being spotted about town. However, at one point, the D.E.B.S. sees fit to broadcast the sighting of a Yoshi egg on a local rooftop. Funnier yet, it ends the announcement in question with "reports are unconfirmed", as if it's a difficult feat to go look on top of the roof in question.
In Fallout 3, Three Dog of Galaxy News Radio seems to focus specifically on the Lone Wanderer, either praising or insulting them based on the player's actions. Lampshaded when he covers the Lone Wanderer starting a Collection Sidequest for Nuka Cola Quantum, stating that it's a slow news day. Since the only events of the world before the Lone Wanderer and later the Enclave arrives are "Brotherhood paladins kill Super Mutants", "Raiders ransack caravans, burn villages and use victim's bodies as home decoration" or "Ghouls spotted and/or eliminated somewhere", seeing some change is noteworthy for everybody.
Subverted with Mr. New Vegas of Fallout New Vegas, who gives reports based on news all over the Mojave and only directly talks about the Courier once (about the genuinely newsworthy story of the Courier recovering from being shot in the head), otherwise at best mentioning third party/civilian involvement.
At the end of Rock Band 3, a series of Spinning News Papers tells of the ensuing riot after your band's definitive performance, your rise to global super-stardom, the media attention that swamps you and how your band eventually goes missing in a plane crash over the seas of Venezuela. The final article telling of the search being called off with no hope of survivors has on the side a piece headlined "Starlet drinks coffee!"note the piece even opens with "In a shocking turn of events...". For the curious, your band didn't actually die; it was a scheme to escape the media attention, giving you an opportunity for a tropical vacation.
Quite a few clues in Nancy Drew games can be gleaned from newspaper articles or magazines. Sometimes this trope is averted entirely, sometimes it's played straight, and sometimes it's half-averted, in that the relevant not-especially-newsworthy article will share the front page with several others ... each of which is a Continuity Nod to a previous game from the series, and just as trivial.
A variant occurs in Starcraft II. UNN reporter Kate Lockwell is interviewing the Crown Prince while the Dominion is facing both an invasion by the Zerg and a rebellion... and anchor Kate Lockwell decides to ask him about his love life. Here, the bad news judgement is in the questions - any sane reporter would ask him about Raynor's rebellion, or the war with the Zerg. Ironically, it turns out that the prince has a crush on Kate herself. Also subverted, in that the prince then essentially answers the questions he should have been asked.
The level "Manifest Destiny" in L.A. Noire. In one day, a source leaks that the LAPD has been taking kickbacks from a famous madam to keep prostitutes in the town off the streets, the conspiracy which stretches to the top of the department. Meanwhile, a group of Marines have stolen a massive shipment of heroin, cigarettes, and guns. Their deal with the Mafia goes south, leading Mickey Cohen to order them all killed on the same day. This includes, among other things, massacring two of them on the red carpet at Graumann's Chinese Theater and firing upon a crowded public bus with a machinegun. Phelps and Earle get involved in a running gun battle which ultimately leaves two dozen plus dead bodies strewn across Los Angeles. So what story catches headlines? Phelps cheating on his wife with a German lounge singer.
Invoked in the flash game The Republia Times. You play as the newspaper editor of a People's Republic of Tyranny and ordered to puff up pieces that keep people entertained (to bring in more readers) or inspire loyalty while downplaying negative news. Thus until you're contacted by La Résistance you're encouraged to produce papers with huge articles about a celebrity wedding while stories like a terrorist bomb causing 600 casualties being relegated to the side column.
In Chulip, the local paper will post about any and all events that go on in Long Life Town, including who Our Protagonist has kissed.
Played straight in this◊ Perry Bible Fellowship comic, although the above the fold story is arguably more interesting and important.
As you might expect, frequently employed by The Onion.
The first game in The Trapped Trilogy ends with a newspaper with a headline about a serial killer who's the main character of the game, and the main villain of the series on the loose. Headline-worthy material, to be sure, except that just below it is a story about the second coming of Jesus.◊
The Jib Jab video, "What We Call the News" sums up this trope in a nutshell.
In Darwin's Soldiers 3 a fight between two characters literally tears up the entire Las Vegas strip. Also, a different character was killed in a convenience store. Somehow, the latter event made the papers, but the former did not.
News Caster: We interrupt this program to give you an urgent report. It seems that the Domino Museum is holding an extremely boring exhibition on ancient Egypt. Apparently this qualifies as news. In other plot-related stories, Seto Kaiba is about to receive an important phone call.
Played for Laughs in Suburban Knights, in which a recorded news broadcast from the eighties gives most of its focus on the disappearance of a geeky LARPER named Chuck Gaffers. The story following that?
On a lighter note, the president has been shot.
In Video Game High School, a news segment about the president being kidnapped is interrupted with news about varsity captain of VGHS getting fragged in a pubstomp.
In a Strong Bad Email segment, Strong Bad runs his own news show and keeps teasing "The World in Crisis" as a major news story... that gets pre-empted for such significant news as a line forming at Bubs' Concession Stand, Strong Mad saying "I SHOULD WIN!" regarding sports, and a weather report allegedly given by an inanimate object. He never explains "The World in Crisis" story.
An episode of Chilly Beach had two spinning papers covering the local election, and a third announcing that "Small town can support three newspapers!"
The Danger Mouse finale, "The Intergalactic 147," has the news reporter taking his bulletin of the strange white planet on a collision course for Earth and turning it into a contest to name the planet.
Family Guy: Quahog 5 News is frequently guilty of this trope, overplaying pop culture or non-news "news" while giving no attention to legitimate news.
Lampshade-hung on Futurama. "Paper boys get award on slow news day."
In the episode "A Clockwork Origin", we see a copy of a "USB Today" newspaper citing its top story as "Trial of the Century. Carbon-based life form accused of Creationism." The less emphasized story? "Carbon-based life discovered."
In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Ponyville Confidential" the Cutie Mark Crusaders write stories about such gossip as the Mayor dying her mane or Princess Celestia acting like a normal pony. This is hardly the Cutie Mark Crusaders' fault, however, as any attempts at normal news are thrown out by the paper's editor (Diamond Tiara) who insists that the paper exclusively prints stories that basically turn it into a gossip rag. What makes it even worse is that when the CMC try to quit the paper, she blackmails them into continuing. Luckily she gets her comeuppance at the end, getting fired from her editor position and relegated to the unglorious and dirty job of running the presses, while the colt that was previously doing that job gets promoted to staff photographer.
In Ratatouille the newspapers in Paris, France apparently consider events in the hospitality industry worthy of the front page, instead of the business or lifestyle sections. Sure, the French take their food a bit more seriously than the inhabitants of other countries, but not to that extent.
In Ren and Stimpy, Stimpy gives the ailing Ren a sponge bath, then Ren has a total relapse when it is the next day's front page story — complete with secondary headline "Hundreds Witness Soapy Scenario!"
To be fair, all the people staring at them through the window did seem to think it was pretty damn fascinating.
The Simpsons does this all the time, often pointed out by having the "top story" edge out an article along the lines of "China Invades US".
Examples of this are: Main Headline "Cavalry Kids Lead Charge In Cleanup" with secondary headline "President Shoots Wife", and Main Headline "Lottery Drawing Today" with secondary headline "President, Rock Star To Swap Wives".
In the episode "You Kent Always Say What You Want", Kent Brockman begins his Smartline show with: "Tonights heated discussion about the Iraq war... will not be happening. Instead, we are going to interview a man who won an Ice cream cone." To be fair, Kent Brockman wasn't too happy about it either, but had no choice on the matter because one of his sponsors was the same ice cream company that Homer won the ice cream at.
In "Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacy", Kent Brockman closes his show with a report about the doll Lisa helped design (mostly because his daughter asked him to. After all, she was right about the Berlin Wall) As the closing music starts playing, Kent suddenly blurts out "Oh, and the President was arrested for murder but more on that tomorrow night...or you can turn to another channel. [Looks off to the side] Oh. Do not turn to another channel."
In the Krusty Gets Kancelled episode, Mayor Quimby admits in a speech that he used the city's treasury to fund the murder of his enemies, but closes with the "I'm a bad wittle boy" catchphrase popularized by the villain of the week. The following newspaper shows the headline "Quimby re-elected in landslide", while a secondary story in smaller type underneath reads "Two more bodies resurface in harbor". Of course, it also shows the residents of Springfield are complete idiots.
Earlier in said episode, the newspaper gives banner coverage to "Gabbo," as part of the media build-up to the revelation of Gabbo as a ventriloquist's dummy and host of an afternoon children's program competing against Krusty's program.
Other headlines the Springfield Shopper has seen fit to feature on the front page include "Man Marries Woman in Wedding Ceremony"; and "Old Man Yells at Cloud"◊.
Justified in one episode in which the incredibly mundane headline is accompanied by a smaller one reading "Slow News Day Grips City."
The strapline to a story about Sideshow Bob's prison pardon reads "#1 Local Issue".
Some minor piece of local news is preceded by a picture of a thin smoke trail leading out of the Capitol building, and Kent Brockman saying, "...leaving the Vice-President in charge."
Played with in a Halloween episode:
Kent: [grim] And those little kittens played with that ball of yarn, [despondent sigh] all through the night. [perks up] On a lighter note, a Kwik-E-Mart clerk was brutally murdered last night.
"...which if true, means death for us all. And now, 'Kent's People!''"
"I'm Kent Brockman, on the eleven o'clock news tonight...a certain type of soft drink has been found to be lethal. We won't tell you which one until after sports and the weather with 'Funny' Sonny Storm!"
Another quote like the above "A certain house-hold fabric could kill you! Find out after the break!"
Later in the same episode that the page image comes from, the squirrel is assassinated. Brockman promises "to stay with the story all night if we have to." Note this was the same episode where the major news story had previously been "boy trapped at bottom of well."
It's lampshaded on one occasion where Kent closes a live report from the field with "There are those who would say that this is not news."
And in "I'm Spelling As Fast As I Can," Brockman deems Lisa Simpson getting into the Spellympics to be of more paramount importance than the destruction of Paris (as apparently does Marge, who switches off the television as soon as he starts to tell Springfield about the latter).
Lampshaded to death on South Park. If a newsperson shows up in an episode, they're guaranteed to end every scene they're in with something like "In other news, we enter our sixth straight day of absolutely no news at all occurring." In one episode, Stan's dad forces them to watch a Presidential nominee debate between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Just then there is "Breaking News" to show that Britney Spears has pissed on a lady bug while on a camping trip. We then "return to the stupid Presidential debate."
Spongebob Squarepants: Spongebob was assigned by Mr. Krabs to be the reporter of his new newspaper. While looking for a story, Spongebob ignores a bank robbery, two guys wrecking a car, and a monster, and instead he writes about Patrick staring at a pole.
The 1943 Bugs Bunny cartoon Tortoise Wins by a Hare shows a newspaper with a banner headline "HARE RACES TORTOISE TODAY", while a much smaller headline on the same page reads "Adolph Hitler Commits Suicide". A pity it didn't get more prominence, since it was uncannily prophetic...!
In the Wartime Cartoon "Scrap Happy Daffy", the fact that Daffy Duck has a really huge pile of scrap metal is somehow enough to warrant a front page headline in "The American Press". Hoarding wasSerious Business in World War II.
A news headline in Gravity Falls: "Cheese crust pizza declared 'delicious'." Somewhere underneath it in the margins: "War or something..."
In the American Dad! episode "Star Trek", Steve tries to be a "bad boy" to become popular and the newspapers depict his Poke the Poodle moments (littering, talking to strangers, etc.) as horrible offenses. Lampshaded in a secondary headline saying it was a slow news week.
Many small-town newspapers — in particular mom-and-pop run weeklies, with circulation in rural communities and where the owners and/or news staff have little to no actual journalism training or news sense — will tend to emphasize "chicken dinner" stories, or stories focusing on social events, personality features or fluff (e.g., ancedotes about nothing in general) above more pressing, actual news. Much like the fictional example given in the lead of this article, the headlines of such stories will run front page above the fold, with oversized photographs and large-font headlines emblazoned across the page (e.g., "Church supper draws 300 people"), while actual news, such as of a fire, crime or controversial issues affecting local government/schools may be buried deep in the paper or completely ignored. While some editors will say this is because the event in question may be several days old and in their mind covered sufficiently by competing media (i.e., TV and daily newspapers in the paper's circulation area) with more resources, many others do this because of their lack of training/skill/news sense, or the staff's priorities (for instance, a perception that their readers want "good news" over the negative).
The term "junk food news" is used by some sarcastically to define news they say is "sensationalized, personalized, and homogenized inconsequential trivia." Critics contend that such news — often celebrity/show business/Hollywood rumors, the latest (ultimately short-lived) fads, dubious medical/consumer advice/claims/research that is little more than a pitch for some useless product, major sports events/rumors, certain criminal trials (e.g., the murder trials of O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony), "weird" news, "humorous" police blotter items and "chicken dinner fluff" — take the place of serious, investigative/watchdog journalism. For example, a news story recounting the legal troubles of Lindsay Lohan might receive banner news attention while a story about a proposed legislative vote limiting gun owner's rights or a vote requiring an ID to purchase cleaning fluid gets little to no attention. More can be read at that other Wiki. Supporters of the "junk food news" theory might claim that such news detracts from a journalist's actual mission (to keep government in check) and has allowed — either by acting passively or as part of some larger "conspiracy" — government to, in their words, "infringe on the rights of others." Those who debunk that argument will counter with claims that actual news is given sufficient coverage and that the public is interested in pop culture (e.g., how their favorite team did if they've played in a championship game, the latest news on Michael Jackson, etc.).
With regard to police news, many newspapers will publish a listing of police calls from within the cities and counties within the circulation area, and on occassion such calls will involve unusual circumstances (e.g., officers finding a boa constrictor while searching a car trunk for stolen goods, a drunk driving suspect who was totally naked). While virtually everyone would agree such calls are a matter of record, regardless of the circumstances, and more often than not merit separate stories, the disproportionate emphasis on the "offbeat" calls and such getting banner headiine coverage (above serious police/crime/court stories) is the point of contention.
In addition to "humorous" police news, some critics contend that "missing white woman" (i.e., "damsel in distress") stories, or stories about a search for a missing person the media supposedly portrays as "sympathetic", get disproportionate media coverage over serious reporting on police issues and criminal/court procedings. The term "Missing White Woman Syndrome" comes from the victim of such incidents, usually a young, attractive white woman of a middle to upper-middle class background, often illustrated through extensive use of formal photographs and other pictures of said victim in "happy times" with family and friends, and interviews with close friends and family (often tearfully pleading for the safe return of their friend/daughter, even though they know it isn't going to happen). In contrast, except if they are sufficiently well-known that their disappearance cannot be ignored or if the editor/publisher's values are different than larger media, men and/or the women who don't fit the stereotypical "totally hot babe" definition (e.g., a fat, ugly short woman) frequently gets none of the coverage ... or if they do, get buried deep in a little-read section of the newspaper under a small headline. More can be read at at that other Wiki.
Project Censored annually complies a list of stories it says were the most ignored and/or underreported by the mainstream media during the past year; the 2011 top "ignored" story was "More soldiers committed suicide than died in combat in 2010." Supporters say that pop culture, personality features and "chicken dinner" stories with little or no actual headline value gets preference over the actual stories.
This sometimes cannot be avoided, often when a major news event occurs just as the paper is about to go to press. Unwilling to recompose the layout, some editors will simply drop the major event in a corner and leave the rest of the front page intact. The same thing can happen with news magazines which are written well ahead of being put on shelves. In other words, something similar to Animation Lead Time. For example, the May 2nd 2011 edition of the Danville Commercial-News led with an article about a local shopping mall agreement, relegating the death of Osama bin Laden to a single column halfway down the right of the page.
This can appear to be the case for newsmagazines (Time, etc.) that are printed and on the newsstands well in advance of the date printed on the cover.
Mock the Week's 2011 series made no mention of the phone hacking scandal that came to a head in July 2011, because the news really broke after they'd finished filming the last full episode. The continuity announcer was almost apologetic in this respect.
Happened all the time in the 1930s Newsreel, which was always geared more toward light entertainment than the dissemination of information. In a decade when North America witnessed (among other things) more bank runs, home foreclosures, protest marches, public works programs, constitutional controversies, and natural disasters than it would ever be possible to mention on a single page, the most obsessively promoted story in the newsreels was....the Dionne Quintuplets. These were five identical little girls born to a French-Canadian family from Ontario, and their appearance marked the first mass-media coverage of multiple births in history. Newsreel reporters tirelessly covered the Dionne girls as they grew up throughout the 1930s, as they were at the time the only known case of surviving quintuplets. Unfortunately, their remarkable situation was exploited both by their physician and by the Canadian government when the Dionnes were taken from their parents as infants and used/abused as a tourist attraction. The Other Wiki has the entire sordid story here.
The whole hullabaloo was parodied more than six decades later in the South Park episode "Quintuplets 2000," which had the townspeople becoming obsessed with some Romanian quintuplets in a story that also doubled as commentary on the then-current Elian Gonzalez case.
Then there were the criminals of the time. In the first part of 1934, there were often going to be a couple of newspaper stories on bank robber John Dillinger on a daily basis - especially in Midwestern cities.
Extremely high-profile celebrity deaths, such as those of Princess Diana and Michael Jackson, and their aftermaths aren't exactly unimportant, but they have an alarming tendency to dominate international media for weeks on end at the expense of equally or more newsworthy stories. Diana's overshadowed the death of Mother Teresa the same week, and Jackson's death (especially in the U.S.) seemingly overshadowed any other story of the summer of 2009, from Iranian voter revolts to North Korean missile tests. 24-Hour News Networks are especially bad about this.
Alongside that, celebrity disappearances, such as John-John, John F. Kennedy's son, get oodles of media attention even when there's nothing to actually report on.
Yahoo News is notorious for this; its headlines are very rarely useful at all. In the UK, they seem to be obsessed with Cheryl Cole, often reporting the tiniest bit of information about her. They seem to think it's amazing that she couldn't break into the U.S. market. Her overexposure in the news may actually have caused people to become sick of her out of Hype Backlash.
In early 2000, a panel of American journalists selected and ranked "the 100 most important news stories of the last century." Even allowing for a bias in favor of American news their judgment was a little questionable, especially since stories that were reported upon as they happened — as opposed to even more terrible events the world learned about long after they happened — were given higher priority. Granted, number of fatalities does not directly equate to newsworthiness. Examples:
The Holocaust, which killed 11 million people, finished in seventh place, right below the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which killed one.
Babe Ruth's 60th home run made the list, although the Cambodian genocide of the '70s didn't.
The Space Shuttle Challenger explosion — seven fatalities — was seen as a bigger deal than the 20 million people who starved to death in China's Great Leap Forward.
Nixon's resignation as a result of Watergate was counted a more important story than the German invasion of Poland which started World War II.
The November 5, 2008 Edition of one Oklahoma newspaper made no mention of who won the presidency, only noting that McCain won the county.
North Korea's second nuclear bomb test was lost in the UK among stories of Susan Boyle and Katie Price. (If it had worked, there would be more commotion.)
The only reason that most people in the UK became aware of this story was due to a radio newsreader who, due to a slip of the tongue, announced that North Yorkshire had tested the bomb. The clip was repeated endlessly over the next few days.
January 2008: In the U.S., NFL Playoffs and anything remotely having to do with the New England Patriots completely eclipsed the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first woman to be elected as the leader of a Muslim nation.
Since Hard Copy was canceled in 1999 and most of that show's staffers moved over to Entertainment Tonight, their definition of "Entertainment" seemingly consists of reality show stars' foibles, anorexic twins, triple team coverage of Jennifer Aniston getting a latte, and Vanessa Minnillo getting dirty looks while wearing a fat suit. The box office gets covered in a shameful fashion, any actual breaking news gets less coverage than the "ET Birthday Quiz", and film critic Leonard Maltin has pretty much given up on getting more than 20 seconds on the show and does all of his true reviewing on Reelz Channel. Also takes the trope of Viewers Are Morons to an extreme ("Real or rumor: This film premiere took place last night. That is real!").
Saturday Night Live: "On Thursday, a boy hid in a box. I guess that was a faster way to tell that story."
Most local news stations tend to cover disasters like plane crashes and the like from a regional angle, even if it has no connection whatsoever with the state or the local area: "No Wisconsin residents were on board the XYZ Airlines flight which crashed enroute from Atlanta to Los Angeles."
One day in Spring 2009, the Northern Ireland section of BBC News Online was headlined with 'Dog found wearing sunglasses'. With a picture of said dog.
On March 5 every year in the United Kingdom, well, it seems to be the day for this. Celebrity news and so-called funny stories dominate the headlines, with everything else... well, sidelined.
Soviet newspapers famously assigned Moon landing of Apollo 11 to the same level of importance as several Polish films being aired on TV. As opposed to some examples, it was due to politics, not infatuation with stupid gossip.
The separation of Cheryl Cole (nee Tweedy) from Ashley Cole, in the week that the British MP expenses' row investigation was still ongoing. This even led to the affair being dubbed by one pundit on a radio station as "Cherylexpensegate."
When CNN had their Windows 2000 computers struck by the Zotob computer worm the network inexplicably spent three hours covering it as a live breaking news story when it was just mainly confined to their computers and not really causing all that much havoc beyond late night mocking and the Turner IT team having to fix every computer in CNN Center.
The "Climategate" controversy *
allegations that climate scientists had doctored or misrepresented politically important data, which later turned out to be false
was kept off all but the most unsympathetic front pages by Tiger Woods' admission that he had engaged in marital infidelities.
The same happened with his return to golf, which was second or even first priority on the news. Wonderfully parodied by Private Eye, who ran the headline "Man Who Plays Golf Plays Golf".
In general, a frequently raised criticism of twenty-four hour news services is that it leads to this; instead of providing everything that's happening, what usually happens is that the news services pick one 'main' story and thrash it to death. This inevitably leads to situations where there's constant coverage of next-to-nothing happening around the 'main' story which nudges out 'lesser' stories which actually are occurring. The stereotypical example of this is reporters standing outside someone's house delivering reports which run along the lines of, "Well, nothing's happening right now — but we'll be the first to tell you when it does!"
It also leads desperate reporters to engage in wild conjectures in order to fill up time — conjectures that may stick in the minds of viewers. This is especially true in the case of major plane crashes, where reporters seem to be congenitally incapable of refraining from looking for oversimplified, sensational, terrifying, and universally wrong explanations for the accident.
Remember the dead baby in the restroom at the Superdome during Katrina? A completely unfounded rumor, reported as news by every 24-hour news channel.
Did anything else happen in the state of Florida on the night of July 8th, 2010? Every single newspaper in the state, or at least the southeastern part, put aside stories like the oil spill in the Gulf Coast, the state Legislative session being extended to deal with said spill, the Palm Beach County teacher's union at an impasse with the school district, the Russian spy controversy, a Pakistani suicide blast, and other news to focus on LeBron James announcing that he will sign with the Miami Heat.
Porra, G1! is a Brazilian Tumblr that covers big news website mistakes (from simple misspellings to big ones such as writing "Players only returned to practice in the next Friday") and examples of this trope (one of the best so far: "Google employee rides his bike in front of the company's building in Zurich").
News about the recent Comprehensive Spending Review in Britain, containing the most wide-ranging budget cuts for years, was quickly overshadowed by a football player signing a new contract with his club, and all sorts of important stories like that same player's wife getting a boob job.
A local newspaper in Nottinghamshire decided to print a story about Michele Bachmann on pages 4 and 5, with an article about her for some random reason. Particularly odd was the fact that there was major news on that day about the financial markets in Britain.
The local FOX affiliate for Jacksonville listed the most important news stories of 2010. What made this list instead of the Wall Street bailouts, the Stimulus Package, the Matthew Shepard Anti-Gay Hate Crime laws, the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, or Arizona's immigration laws? Lindsay Lohan being sentenced to rehab again.
The tabloid series Inside Edition seems to exist solely to report every move Bristol Palin makes. Yes, they have stretched a brief news story from 2008 across several years.
The Daily Star often prioritises gossip over news, and as such runs into this quite a lot. Most notably, the UN sanctioning action in Libya was relegated to page nine, after a model's tits, coverage on the personal life of Katie Price, whose last action of note was in 2004, and Comic Relief. The front page didn't even mention Libya. At the same time, its stablemate, the Daily Express, was more concerned with petrol prices than covering the actual conflict.
The Daily Express is notorious for finding any excuse to put stories about Princess Diana on the cover (especially conspiracy theories about her death), which has earned the paper the nicknames Diana Express, Di'ly Express and Daily Ex-Princess. When other papers were reporting Saddam Hussein's death sentence, the Express ran with: SPIES COVER UP DIANA 'MURDER'. In 2007 this was temporarily replaced by the Madeleine McCann kidnap story, which the Express ran on one hundred consecutive front pages.
On April 8, 2011; Portsmouth, Virginia NBC affiliate WAVY-TV began covering the story of a baby black bear running loose in Virginia Beach on their 5:00 newscasts. Where this becomes an example is when they stayed with the story for much of their remaining newscasts (even pre-empting NBC Nightly News in doing so). All this was begin covered to where there was little mention in those newscasts of the potential threat of a government shutdown due to disagreements over spending cuts in the Congressional budget.
News in general tends to focus on whats happening in/affecting the country it's made in. This often means big international news affecting more people is often only broadcast after small local headlines, if at all. For instance, in the UK the 2010 Brazilian floods, which killed at least 51 people and forced 120,000 to leave their homes, was broadcast second to doctors in the U.K getting a pay rise.
When the Libyan rebels suddenly appeared on the green square of Tripoli, everyone wanting to know what the hell happened was sure to avoid CNN as they ran a headline about a celebrity car crash.
On December 30, 2011, news sources reported about further unrest in Syria, the acknowledgement of Kim Jong Un as the supreme leader of North Korea and a warning about the nation not changing their policies, general elections in Jamaica, saber rattling by Iran against the United States and Israel, and Russell Brand ending his marriage to Katy Perry. Here was the New York Post's front page the day after.
Also, in early 2012, the Media was focusing on the anniversary of the Watergate Scandal. The problem was that the time they were focusing on it was during a time where they should be focusing on the congressional hearing of Eric Holder for a scandal that was ongoing, rather than one long-resolved.
The Labour Government of the UK thought they could use the 9/11 attacks as an opportunity to release a huge pile of press-releases that would have made them look bad (in the words of a memo that was supposed to remain internal, "It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury."). Obviously the 9/11 attacks weren't a small story, but by using them this way the government hoped the distraction offered by the event would keep the British electorate from noticing things that were more directly relevant to them due to them being lost under a barrage of 9/11 coverage. Of course this backfired horribly when the aforementioned memo was leaked to the press. The British public were outraged by the apparent lack of compassion and cynicism displayed, and several governmental careers were ended prematurely in the ensuing scandal - the special advisor resigned, the department's communication chief became resigned, his boss had to clarify the situation, and the phease "bury bad news" entered the lexicon.
Having said that, while everyone remembers the attempt to "bury" a story, few people remember what the story actually was, so you could say that the approach did work after a fashion. The item in question, which was indeed published on September 12, announced changes to payments to councillors that were expected to be unwelcome.
During the Miami Bass rap group 2 Live Crew's legal problems in 1990 stemming from their third album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, being declared legally obscene, Rolling Stone Magazine ran an article which included the group's leader Luke (Luther Campbell) looking at a newspaper and pointing out how Nelson Mandela coming to the U.S. was on page 3.
After the failed assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1981, News agencies across the United States reported that he had not been hit. This is perhaps the biggest example of misreporting a major news story in American history. Here you can see ABC News reporting that he wasn't wounded, and then seconds later the revelation that yes, he was. "The president has not been wounded...He was wounded? My god! The president was hit? He's in stable condition, all this information!"
They also misreported that he was in stable condition, when in actual fact, he was undergoing major, potentially life threatening surgery to remove the bullet at the time.