"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, usually seeing the paper in a 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.
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. Some times you'll find comments about the lack of meaningful other news as a joke.
Often used to demonstrate that Old Media Are Evil. See also Local Angle. Kent Brockman News often features this.
open/close all folders
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.
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, placed in the newspaper's middle pages.
Drifting Classroom is about an entire school full of students and teachers which one day suddenly disappears for no discernible reason. Obviously, this would receive lots of media attention, since it's a case of lots of possibly dead children as well as something seemingly scientifically impossible. But when it's mentioned in the news report in volume 2, the report about it begins with the words "In other news..." So apparently a scientifically impossible mass disappearance of children isn't as important as whatever it was that the TV news reported about before it.
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. And given that the Fantastic Four had been introduced the previous year, Spidey wasn't even the first or most impressive superhero in the Big Apple.
In a Spider-Man arc by Todd McFarlane, 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 McCarthy 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.
Libeled Lady, in which "PEER'S WIFE ROUTS RICH PLAYGIRL" is the front-page headline. It's even worse news judgment, because it isn't true, and the playgirl accused of trying to break up a peer's marriage sues for libel.
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 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). 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!"
In Batman & Robin, 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.
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.
Sextette. Apparently, the sex life and consummation of an 85-year-old woman with a 32-year-old Brit is front page news across the world, instead of on Ripley's Believe It or Not! or maybe Faces Of Death.
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 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, only a minority of readers would require clarification.
Jonathan Chait has harsh words regarding the editorial priorities of the Hill Valley Telegraph.
Apparently, in the world of My Pet Monster, a dog being the favorite to win a dog show is worthy of the front page.
Lampshaded 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 Lampoons 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.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which is set in 1980, sends this up by having Ron Burgundy and his crew effectively inventing the trope — at least as far as its use by 24-Hour News Networks is concerned. Stuck in a 2 AM timeslot and having made a bet with the prime time anchor that they could get higher ratings, they decide to give people what they want to see, so rather than actual news they present cute animal stories, tributes to American patriotism, gimmicky sports highlights, and celebrity fluff. This works spectacularly.
In The Mighty Ducks series, Pee-Wee hockey results making front-page news seems a little ridiculous even by hockey-loving Minnesota standards. It goes even more overboard in the sequel, where the hockey finals of Junior Goodwill Games not only get huge newspaper coverage, but the finals preview includes a giant Floating Head Syndrome image hyping Coach Bombay vs. Wolf Stansson.
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.
As the fifth book shows, the Ministry of Magic isn't afraid of squashing the Prophet from running stories it doesn't like (and the Prophet generally is fine with complying). Given that the news-worthy events of the second book also involved the Ministry making very bad moves (Fudge wrongly arrested Hagrid and kicked out Dumbledore, still didn't stop the danger to the students, and ended up having it revealed that he and the Board of Governors were bullied into it by Lucius Malfoy), it wouldn't be that hard to see the Ministry downplaying those events, or having them ignored entirely.
In the Alex Rider series, the death of a small time journalist is on the front page. Turns out because he wasn't really dead, it was MI6 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.
In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the announcement of the Golden Ticket contest and the subsequent search for the tickets dominates newspaper front pages — and, in adaptations, television news as well — for weeks on end. Granted, the contest is Serious Business to most of the world, with people being driven to ridiculous and even criminal means to find the tickets.
Live Action TV
HLN. Critics contend this spinoff 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.
Parodied on Corner Gas, where the local Dog River Howler 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.
Angel had a particularly bad example. Lindsey's law firm promoting him to senior partner apparently got actual news coverage.
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 retract the award, so why not?)
The fact that both The Colbert Report and The Daily Show have won Peabodies 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 not one, but two, Peabodies in spite of the fact that he never actually did. (The Peabodies are given out to shows across the entire medium of television, and there are no limits to the awards that can be given.)
There's 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.
Another 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—forty-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.
An 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 I.
A 1980 SNL 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 '70s, 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 anchor Chevy Chase announced every week that Generalísimo Francisco Franco was still dead. This was invoked by The Colbert Report and other satirical news outlets with the death of Osama bin Laden.
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 prisoner 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 a 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 West Wing universe, 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.
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.
In an episode of The Real Mccoys, the news of grandpa being arrested for burning his trash was all over the headlines. An old man going to jail for burning his trash, the most important thing going on that day.
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 8 gold medals in swimming got a tiny little mention in the corner. An Op Ed later chewed them out for it.
The 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 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan to a small thumbnail image on the top left corner.
People does this most of the time, being dedicated to celebrity gossip and human interest stories rather than important news.
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.
In Bloom County, one story arc in which space aliens attack Earth with death rays and abduction beams (starting in Bloom County itself, of course) and harvest humans for food and sex slaves toys with this trope when Milo reports all of this to his editor-in-chief (who's already an alcoholic and a chronically nervous wreck) at the Bloom Beacon:
Editor: "You mean you want me to bump my Jack Kemp adultery rumor story to page TWO!?
Milo: "I didn't say that!"
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
An old George Carlin bit has him doing a promo for the nightly news: "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.
Eddie Izzardinverts this in Definite Article, when he notes that even papers don't steep too low:
Thimbles don’t get enough press these days, do they? I don’t think they ever did, because very rarely you see, "'Thimbles? Ooh!' Says Man."
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 later 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 Pokémon 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.
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.
Generally averted in Fallout: New Vegas, where Mr. New Vegas, the Radio host of Radio Vegas's news reports are generally news worthy. And the Courier is rarely ever mentioned by name, except for the one news story relating to him being shot in the head and recovering (which is what kicks off the game). Played straight in a few stories, such as the one relating to the Camp Golf rookies and their training scores.
At the end of Rock Band 3, a series of Spinning Newspapers 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 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.
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 Donny Vermillion 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.
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 machine gun. 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.
In Tomodachi Life, this is the point of Mii News. Other than announcing when something's unlocked, their main point in the game... Is to announce silly news articles, such as a Mii reentering Kindergarten, or a Mii finding a lost sock.
In the "Pandoran Gazette" (which comes with the Collector's Edition) in Borderlands 2, this is lampshaded.
Local Newspaper Writer Desperate To Fill Space On Page Two hundred words. That's a lot of words. I mean, relatively, I guess it isn't - War and Peace was a lot of words. At least three hundred, definitely. But in a world where a headline like "Man eaten alive by giant ape monster" doesn't warrant much more than a shrug, it's hard to find two hundred words worth of news that will actually excite people.
The Adventures of Dr. McNinja: On this (VERY spoileriffic) page, a time traveller looks at the newspaper to find out what year it is. The front page headline reads "IT IS OCT 4TH, 1979! THAT'S IT. NOTHING IS GOING ON. SLOW DAY."
NO SPORTS NOBODY EVEN DIED Why don't you draw in your own picture of what happened to you yesterday? And then we'll give you plenty of space to write about something.
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.
Welcome to Night Vale: While Cecil's sense of what makes a news story noteworthy is often a bit skewed, he usually does manage to pick out the relevant stories to report on. However, he really drops the ball in Ep. 31, "A Blinking Light up on the Mountain". He neglects to mention (first) that the mountain is new, (second) that the new mountain rose out of a new set of mud plains, and (third) that the mud plains are currently covered by an invading army.
Lampshaded in one of the missions on the WGBH (FFFBI) site, where one of the items in the mission dossier is a newspaper article about New Delhi getting new binumerical street signs (that does come in handy in teaching the agent Hindi numerals) that ends with the line "Bystanders agreed with India Inquirer reporters that it was indeed a slow day for news."
Camp Lazlo: The attempts to jazz up the camp newsletter end up this territory:
Local hamster builds giant toothbrush out of toothpicks...THIS IS THE SCOOP OF THE CENTURY??? ARE YOU ALL MAD???
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 Hanging with "Paper boys get award on slow news day." The same episode featured, "Monster To City: GRRRRRR"
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."
"Roswell That Ends Well" has the Planet Express crew sent back in time to 1947 Roswell. Leela grabs a newspaper -
Leela: "Take a look at this!"
Bender: "'High School Gym Renovations On Schedule'? What a load!"
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 The Ren & Stimpy Show, 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!"
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:
Kent Brockman: Tonight on Smartline, our report from the Middle East will not be seen, so that we may bring you a man who bought an ice cream cone.
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.
A 1934 Van Beuren Studios cartoon titled "A Little Bird Told Me" depicts birds operating a newspaper. They get a scoop and decide to print an extra edition. The news consists of a (live-action) human boy eating jam out of a jar with his hands.
Played with in an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Bullwinkle has just found a ruby-studded model boat, and the narrator mentions it made the front page of the papers. This is followed with several rapid-fire scenes of people reading the headlines of the front pages of the various papers, which are either serious news or celebrity gossip. Rocky corrects the narrator, and says it's the first page of the classifieds, which incorrectly claims that Bullwinkle is trying to sell the boat (He said he wanted to sail the yacht at an interesting party, and the paper said he would sell the boat to an interested party). This dinky and incorrect ad placed in a small-town Minnesota paper still somehow manages to end up in the classified section of a paper read by a nobleman in Pakistan.
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 — tend to emphasize "chicken dinner" stories (e.g., "Church supper draws 300 people"), social events, personality features, or fluff anecdotes about nothing in general above actual news. Much like the fictional example given in the lead of this article, the headlines run front page above the fold, with oversized photographs and large-font headlines emblazoned across the page. Actual news — a fire, crime, or controversial issues affecting local government/schools — may be buried deep in the paper or completely ignored. While some editors 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, 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 occasion 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 headline 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 proceedings. 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 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 get 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.
December 2007/January-February 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, and the election that marked the return of Pakistan to something more closely resembling democracy.
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 (née 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.
When Tiger Woods returned to golf, it 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 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. Ultimately, the bear was lowered down just as WAVY switched to NBC's prime-time lineup
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.
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,note The first he knew of his resignation was when he received phonecalls from the press asking him for comment. his boss had to clarify the situation, and the phrase "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!" Actually, he was undergoing major, potentially life threatening surgery to remove the bullet at the time. Additionally, later all three networks and CNN reported erroneously claimed that White House Press Secretary James Brady (who had suffered a head wound that left him confined to a wheelchair) had died (with new CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather actually announcing a moment of silence). Also, at one point an equally inaccurate report stating that Reagan had died was reported before that was corrected. When the erroneous announcement of Brady's death was corrected and send to Reynoldsnote possibly including a correction by Frank's son, Dean; who was working for the UPI newswire at the time; Reynolds finally blew up; screaming at staffers to "... get it straight so we can report this thing accurately".
On September 16, 2013, people in the Denver, Colorado metro area wanting to know about the massacre of twelve civilians in Washington, D.C.'s Navy Yard made sure to avoid The Denver Channel (Denver's ABC affiliate), as they were leading with ad nauseum coverage of flooding over the previous week that had inundated many parts of the Front Range.
For the record, Denver's ABC affiliate has been criticized before for Skewed Priorities. For example, in June 2013, when central Colorado was ravaged by wildfires, they pre-empted ABC World News with Diane Sawyer in favor of wildfire coverage. They have also been criticized for completely pre-empting some shows like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune when the other Denver news stations like 9News would simply run a continuous scrolling ticker along the bottom of the screen.
The same happened with those September 2013 floods as well: Based on a read of users posting on the 7News Facebookpage, they are falling into the stereotypical criticism of 24 hour cable news channels (thrashing a story to death and putting it ahead of everything else). The comments for September 17th, for example, include one user who wrote, "Please, please go back to regular programming. Don't get me wrong[:] you have covered the storms and floods with [due] diligence and we appreciate it. Now you are just repeating yourselves and grasping for something to say to fill time." Another user wrote, "Can you guys start to show our show's ?????? I understand, people are having trouble, but having to watch it 24 hours a day is way too much. Go to another channel and run your live coverage."
LBJ once said, "If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: 'PRESIDENT CAN'T SWIM'."
If you were in Denver, Colorado at any time in January 2014, the NFL playoffs, AFC championship game of January 19th, and anything having to do with the Denver Broncos or Peyton Manning making the Super Bowl completely overshadowed such things as the Arapahoe High School shooting and death of Claire Davis. Anything having to do with the Broncos also eclipsed such things as a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy being killed in a car accident on January 26th. Controversy also ensued when a number of angry KUSA viewers vented their frustrations on the KUSA Facebook page for their decision to interrupt coverage of a Stadium Series hockey game between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium that had been on the air for three hours in favor of showing the Bronco players arriving in New Jersey. One user said it best: "Why would you interrupt a hockey game to show people getting off a plane? I understand it is the Broncos, but getting off a plane is not "breaking news"".
The recent assault on Filipino host and comedian Vhong Navarro generated a mother lode of news reports showing the finer details about the incident, and allegations on the actor supposedly raping a (then) little-known starlet. So much that it practically buried news on a flooding that took place in southern Philippines, among other things, to which critics and media watchdog groups aren't happy about.
March 12, 2014: In Denver, Colorado, a man abducts a 4 year old child while stealing an SUV in Longmont. He then leads police on a 90 minute car chase along Interstate 76 and E-470, during which he carjacks two other vehicles, before finally being caught in south Denver; all of this is recorded by a news helicopter. This entire chase for the most part, at least in the Denver metro area, overshadowed a gas explosion in New York City that destroyed two Harlem apartment buildings and killed at least eight people.
Inverted in 2006 after a hotly disputed presidential election in Mexico, the losing candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, decided to proclaim himself "Legitimate President of Mexico" in a public ceremony with his followers. Except for a few sympathizing newspapers and CNN, the event was largely ignored by the Mexican press, and as a result he and his followers accused them of this trope.
In February-April 2014, Ukraine had a revolution, leading to Russia to take over Crimea and stir up trouble in eastern Ukraine, thereby raising the specter of civil war in Ukraine and returning the memory of the Cold War and generally giving everyone the geopolitical jitters. Meanwhile, a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 bound for Beijing mysteriously disappeared, probably crashing somewhere in the Indian Ocean, and there was a big search for the debris. Guess which one CNN follows closely? Here's a hint: It's not the one that involves a fight for the heart of Europe. CNN's wall-to-wall coverage of the Malaysian Airlines plane is egregious: BuzzFeed stats say that on March 12th, the network devoted 256 out of 271 broadcast minutes covering Flight 370 on the same day that there was a fatal gas explosion in East Harlem that killed eight people, among other newsworthy stories. You would have been better tuning in to a local New York City news station if you wanted to know about that explosion. CNN also drew criticism from a number of sources, like StephenKing, for exploiting the grieving relatives of the victims on the plane in an effort to boost ratings. One month after the crash, he said on Twitter, "This constant rehashing of the tragedy shows no respect to the families; it turns them into supporting players in CNN's ratings quest." CNN's coverage fell into the lines of "Well, nothing's happening right now — but we'll be the first to tell you when it does!" They even went so far as to call the 102nd anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic as "breaking news". That particular gaffe was even called out by the parody Twitter account for The Newsroom character Will McAvoy. Ironically, the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in July and the news media's focus on it brought the Ukraine-Russia conflict back to light in turn.