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Chekhov's News

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Okay, I apologize. That is a terrible scene. It's like, "Why was that in the movie? Gee, you think maybe it'll come back later, maybe?" I hate that. A TV's on, talking about the new power plant. Wonder where the climax will happen.

The protagonist turns on the TV, listens to the radio, or skims the newspaper as part of a morning routine (or, in the case of going to the movies in the old days, seeing a newsreel before the movie begins) and we get some brief look at the big news, then some background noise small articles and local goings-on. Of course, by the Law of Conservation of Detail, it's never really very small; even the most mundane or seemingly faraway events crash into the here and now with dramatic results.

That article about a new building opening? It will house the Doomsday Device MacGuffin. Reporter mentions sudden disappearance of a species? They're actually aliens going home. Radio announcement of an author cancelling his book tour? He's been silenced by the Brotherhood of Ancient Conspirators. Whatever the seemingly small-fry buzz, it may appear irrelevant or incidental right now but will turn out to be critical to the resolution of the plot.

Contrast Ignored Vital News Reports, in which the importance of a news item is obvious to the audience but the characters ignore it. This does not include news items that are purely Foreshadowing; to be Chekhov's News, the news must appear early on without obvious significance, and the payoff has to appear later in the work. Compare Chekhov's Classroom, where the information comes from school but is equally convenient.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Summer Wars, there is a news report in the beginning about a satellite hurtling towards the Earth, but will land safely. After everything has gone down, the satellite has been hacked and is now hurtling towards the Big Fancy House everyone's living in.
  • In Kiki's Delivery Service, there's a running news item involving a dirigible. At the climax, it runs into trouble and Kiki must rescue her friend Tombo, who's desperately hanging from a rope on it.
  • At the beginning of an episode of Hyouka, Oreki walks past a bulletin board with several news flyers posted on it. At the end of the episode, Oreki remembers one of them and correctly solves the mystery Chitanda created for him as a game.

    Comic Books 
  • At the beginning of Supergirl storyline Bizarrogirl, Lana Lang hears a news report mentioning the JLA is deployed overseas. When something starts tearing up Metropolis and Kara states the League will surely handle it, Lana warns they're out of the country.
  • In Watchmen, news items mention the disappearance of prominent scientists and artists. It turns out that this is related, not only to the mask-killer cases, but to something much, much bigger.
  • Scooby-Doo! Team-Up: In "Scooby Doo, When Are You?", a Time Machine transports the gang to the Flintstones' time. One of the examples of stone age technology introduced to the gang is a newspaper. Flint Pumice, a real estate developer featured in that newspaper turns out to be that story's ghost.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible is reading the newspaper with a headline about the disappearance of his former superhero colleague Gazerbeam. Later, when he's escaping from Syndrome, he finds Gazerbeam's skeleton in a cave—and notices he'd used his laser vision to carve the word "Kronos" into the wall before he died.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Date Night has an early mention of a local senate, an iconic broom and clean-up act who turns out to play a big part in why the heroes are getting chased down.
  • Early in the first Back to the Future movie, a random passerby mentions the 30th anniversary of a terrible lighting bolt that struck their monument in 1955. At the end of the movie, since plutonium was very rare at the time, 1955 Doc Brown uses the power of the bolt to fuel the DeLorean and get Marty back home.
  • In Halloween III: Season of the Witch, a TV news report near the beginning tells of a large block that has vanished from Stonehenge. This becomes significant near the end, when Mr. Cochran reveals he's the one who stole the stone, and is using chips from it to sabotage his Silver Shamrock masks.
  • Lampshaded in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where the narrator expresses his contempt for the trope. It is later played straight by the film.
  • Played with in Shaun of the Dead, where the news broadcasts describe the worsening Zombie Apocalypse, but the characters never notice them.
  • Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle has a news telecast which mentions an escaped cheetah from the zoo. The pair later come across the cheetah and get high with it, before riding it.

    Literature 
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the Daily Prophet mentions a break-in at Gringotts that turns out to be an attempt at stealing the eponymous stone.
    • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry hears a Muggle news report about the notorious mass-murderer Sirius Black. Turns out Sirius is a wizard, Harry's godfather, and not a murderer at all.
    • Later averted in Order Of The Phoenix, where Harry is listening in on Muggle news reports for any news of Voldemort's return. The only news item mentioned is about a pet bird who learned to water-ski, at which point Harry decides nothing important is going to be on after that if they've resorted to airing a fluff piece.
  • In the Relativity story "Master Blankard's Pawn", there's a news story that mentions a break-in at a pawn shop. Since the word "pawn" appears in the story's title, it's no surprise when this turns out to be significant.
  • The Mortal Instruments: In City Of Fallen Angels, Clary sees a news story about a newborn baby abandoned outside of a hospital, with a note attached by the infant's mother begging the authorities to kill him. It turns out that the baby was one many infants who would have otherwise been normal whose mothers agreed to be injected with demon blood. Unable to handle the demon blood, all the babies die, and in one scene, Alec and Isabelle are horrified when they stumble upon a room full of the dead infants.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sherlock episode "The Great Game", a passing mention of an art exhibition opening on the morning news later becomes a plot point.
  • The Doctor Who episode "The Wedding of River Song" starts with a radio broadcast about solar flares blocking out the signal. Turns out, it was a response to a cry for help for the Doctor, and the answer of millions of return call.
  • Wakana Sonozaki's radio show "Healing Princess" from Kamen Rider W.
  • Whenever there's a newspaper in Babylon 5, it was made for freezeframe and contains Foreshadowing.
  • In the Community episode "Intro to Political Science", as Troy and Abed are covering the Greendale election, the news scroll at the bottom of the frame foreshadows the plot lines of several future episodes.

    Video Games 
  • News reports early in Deus Ex: Human Revolution prominently mention Hugh Darrow's Panchaea project, which turns out to be The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. And additionally, the newsreader narrating those reports turns out to be a Chekhov's Gunman.
  • You can make this happen in Plague Inc. Time your mutations right and you can spoil various events by infecting the attendees (and increasing the spread of your disease).
  • In the first court case of Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, you get to read a London newspaper about a bunch of jewel thefts across town, which has nothing to do with your case of assault. It turns out that the last witness is one of those thieves, which provides a motive for her assault on your client, who had evidence of her theft.
  • Inverted in Tachyon: The Fringe. The Justified Tutorial has Jake Logan evaluating a novice flight instructor, and the tutorial's combat section has a group of drones go haywire and attack you. Later in the game, a news item reports that the instructor you evaluated saved her students when this happened again.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines almost every piece of TV news or newspaper headline is related to something the character will encounter, such as various odd premonitions, a movie star miraculously surviving a car crash, and the actions of a nearby serial killer. If the player is playing a PC from the insane Malkavian bloodline, the TV will even say things like, when reporting on a warehouse that the PC destroyed, "authorities are investigating a local warehouse fire. Police suspect you did it".

    Visual Novel 
  • In the Yarudora game Double Cast, such an event happens very early in the game if you go eat ramen with the main heroine; as you eat, a brief interview of a psychologist will be aired on the shop's TV. Turns out that this psychologist was the one who attended the main heroine for her Split Personality in the backstory, and her testimony to the protagonist when he finds this out is crucial for solving the case.

    Webcomic 
  • On page 135 of Crankrats, a random newspaper blows across a panel with the headline: "Coronation of Prince Elliot. The End of General Mayfax's Reign?"
  • An XKCD comic titled Clumsy Foreshadowing suggests imagining this trope is in force to make the news more interesting.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: Throughout the first half of "Ayla and the Grinch", Ayla keeps making fun of the sleazy attempts of the various news channels to get ratings based on a series of deaths in the area, assumed to be the work of a serial killer nicknamed The Headhunter. Then Ayla ends up facing off against the killer to protect a theater full of beauty pageant contestants. It's something much, much worse than the newspeople thought.
  • In the Cyanide & Happiness short "Sad, Sad Larry," when Larry is trying to hang himself, the news discusses a chainsaw murderer on the loose. Later, when Larry is immobilized and hospitalized, the chainsaw murderer appears and, much to Larry's dismay, does not kill him.
  • In The Shoe-In, a guy named Kyle is going in for a job interview and hears a report on the radio about a suspect in a high-speed police chase that blew through roadblocks. Kyle seems unimpressed and even amused. The interview starts off pretty well, with them discussing Kyle's outstanding achievements which were probably all made up. Things begin to turn around when the interviewer sees some of his drawings, all of which are penises. Then his background check comes in. It's revealed that Kyle has a criminal record that includes an attempted rape (of a puppy) and a murder (of the puppy's owner). When asked why he isn't in jail, Kyle states that he skipped bail.
    Kyle: Do you know how many roadblocks I had to dodge in order to get to this interview on time?
  • In Worm, the day after the Undersiders rob the bank, that event is pushed off the front page of the local paper, the Bulletin, by a report of a kidnapped child — specifically, Dinah Alcott, targeted by Coil for her precognitive abilities.

    Western Animation 

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