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. Likely to take place in small-town papers or school newspapers. Compare Coincidental Broadcast when used to relay plot-relevant information, and Yet Another Baby Panda when news broadcasts conclude with a fluffy piece. See also Local Angle. Kent Brockman News often features this. Contrast If It Bleeds, It Leads, where the only important info that gets reported to death is the most miserable. Proportional Article Importance is when a reader of the newspaper misjudges the importance of an article.
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- In the second Johnny Turbo mini-comic, Tony holds up a newspaper that had "FEKA's CD system failing in Japan!!" taking up the top third of the front page. Because low sales of a video game system is shocking, ground-breaking news.
- In episode 14 of Happy Heroes, the news gives a lot of attention to a musician who... missed a note while playing a song.
- 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!
- In the crime-ridden big city where Dick Tracy takes place, a newspaper runs an above-the-fold story titled "Local Farmer Faces Foreclosure".
- 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.
- In a strip, Andy is flipping channels, hearing nothing but "Today in the O.J. Simpson trial..." and remarks in exasperation, "100 channels and one thing on."
- 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... Andy remarks that now she understands why Elvis shot that television.
- 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!"
- Inside Out: Anger regularly reads a newspaper called The Mind Reader which reports on Riley's thoughts, leading to such front page headlines as "NO DESSERT!" and "RILEY QUITS HOCKEY!"
- 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.
- Averted in "Willie the Operatic Whale" via Surprisingly Realistic Outcome; the story about a singing whale starts out tucked in the middle of the newspaper. Only as the whale is heard singing more and more does the story gain prominence.
- 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).
- An even older article had the story: "CNN Still Releasing News Piled Up During Elián González Saga". They included stuff like "China's Communist Government Falls", "Bubonic Plague Outbreak in Africa", "Los Angeles swallowed by the Sea" and "Mexico invades Texas". A photograph in the article shows a stack of videotapes with labels like "Library of Congress Demolition" and "Albrightnote 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 couple on The Bachelor, 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
- During the introduction to "MLF Lullaby", Tom Lehrer quipped that "Much of this discussion took place during the baseball season, so the Chronicle may not have covered it".
- In the Hatsune Miku song "News 39", the mission statement of the Channel 39 news is to make their headlines about the most uplifting and positive news in the world no matter how small it is (an entire segment is dedicated to a local couple's engagement, for example). The anchorwoman justifies it by saying people need to know there's still good out there in spite of the bitter news that can be watched anywhere else.
- "New Dress" by Depeche Mode notes that, for all the tragedy and important news stories in the world, in the eyes of the media that wasn't as important as the fact that "Princess Di is wearing a new dress!"
- In "In the Middle of the Night" by Madness, a newsagent and compulsive Panty Thief goes on the run after seeing a photofit of himself on the front page of the Sun, a national British tabloid (referred to in the song by its Rhyming Slang nickname, the Currant Bun). Even given the reputation of the Sun, it must have been a slow news day for a photofit of a local pervert to be front-page news.
- 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 Izzard inverts this in Definite Article, when she 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."
- Wanda Sykes once called out the news for teasing recall notices during the evening news:
Reporter: It will kill you, and it might be on your dinner plate right now. We'll tell you what it is after the break.
Wanda: (horrified expression as she looks at a mimed spoon that is moments from entering her mouth) Is it peas?!
- 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.
- 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."
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.
- Biter Comics: The local news station covers the hard hitting story of... the couple that's been married for a long time.
- Bob the Angry Flower: Robert invents a portal to heaven, and uses it in national public scientific research. Everyone who could possibly object is too busy listening to things like a gay star.
- In this Penny Arcade strip, a father tells a New York Times reporter about how he's most worried about his son playing too much Halo despite the pandemic going on. The reporter tells him that this is The New York Times... and they think it's front page news.
- Polandball pokes fun at this in the most offensive way possible in Nice Hat.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has this:
Superman: I'm going to the press, and we'll see what the headline is when they find an entire county of impoverished minorities has disappeared.
Headline: Celebrity Nipples: A Retrospective
- According to this Scandinavia and the World strip, Denmark's take on global news is like this.
- Schlock Mercenary plays this trope straight when a story about a brontosaurus at a zoo projectile vomiting on the crowd gets more attention than the Lunar Space Elevator getting cut and almost killing everyone within a kilometer of the moon's equator.
- This trope was the entire point of Andrew Hussie's old What A Scoop! miniseries.
- 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.
- 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."
- The Jib Jab video, "What We Call the News" sums up this trope in a nutshell.
- JonTron suggests that this is why there's a disproportionately high amount of Italian-animated films about the Titanic featuring talking mice.
Jon: But this isn't even the only Italian-animated Titanic film that features. Talking. Mice. The other being called The Legend of the Titanic, The LEGEND of the Titanic. Did Italy just miss the news that day? Was that the day the world's biggest meatball was made, and the Titanic sinking was just a footnote right at the bottom?
- In the Rifftrax short Overcoming Fear, the lead character proudly carries around a stack of newspapers where the front story is his in-class defense of a new bicycle regulation.
Newspaper: "Student Defends Bicycle Ordinance."
Kevin: "On slowest news day in history."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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◊.
- 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 Vinesauce Tomodachi Life, the already bizarre news reports in the game get cranked up in a side episode where Vinny plays the prequel Tomodachi Collection. At several points in the episode, Vineschnoz (a clone of Vinny's Mii that sports a Gag Nose) tries to share his hot news. Thanks to the game corruptions Vinny is implementing, his reports range from odd (saying some Gratuitous Japanese) to weird (a conspiracy theory involving ents and "ÄSlw b" that he says twice) to slightly frightening (talking about the aforementioned "ÄSlw b" while being covered up by a glitched texture wall). For some reason, the last report he gives out is completely normal (by Tomodachi standards of normal).
- Welcome to Night Vale:
Cecil: We've tried to turn off the faucets, but the handles just spin loosely and have seemingly no effect on the smell. We tried calling the plumber but they just screamed something about there being four suns. 'Four suns!' they howled into the phone, before muttering for a while about nothing being as it seems, we've been duped by God, all is lost, blah-blah, something-something living nightmares. So, I guess we’re going to have to contact the Water Department directly about this issue. (Beat) Oh! Also, I should have mentioned earlier, the two suns have now doubled to four suns. There are now four suns in the sky. So that’s awful.
- 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.
- Returns in Ep. 60 "Water Failure" when, despite several incrediby news-worthy happenings around town, Cecil keeps getting sidetracked by station problems, such as the water being off so he can't make coffee:
- In "[Best Of?]", we get to hear a clip from Cecil's first broadcast after becoming full-time radio host, where he picked Leonard Burton's retirement as his main story over America entering WWII.
- Parodied in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series episode 24:
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.