What makes the news and what doesn’t and why?

28 Feb

I have done a quick little survey of what transport safety stories have hit the news in the past few days. I was prompted to do this when I noticed that a horrific story from Brazil about a car driver who drove at speed through a throng of cyclists taking part in Critical Mass had only resulted in 3 stories in the main-stream media (on CBS, Sky and just now also on the BBC) according to Google News. Update: This story has just hit mainstream media, and  Google now reports over 200 articles around the world. It did however take four days to do so, and only went mainstream after the driver was brought in for questioning. The event took place on Friday evening, and by Monday evening this was what Google reported, only 11 articles of which most were cycling media:

Brazil Critical Mass news reports

Have a look at the video of the incident and consider why this was ignored and check out what did make it into the papers.

The big story from today is that the UK government wants us to drive faster on motorways to boost the economy. This resulted in some 793 new articles according to Google News within hours.

Google news resuluts – 80mph

Then there were the 690 news stories acknowledging the 10th anniversary of the ‘Selby rail crash’, which should more accurately be called the ‘Land Rover driver kills 10 rail passengers crash’. Incidentally the driver of the Land Rover was out of jail after serving 30 months of his 5 year term.

Selby crash anniversary

Go back a few weeks there was the story that a possible new inquiry into the deaths of two teenagers who died five years ago while crossing a railway line at a level crossing when the warning lights were flashing. 266 articles for that one, including a front-page story in The Times.

Essex level crossing deaths

And finally there was the story about ‘the footballer who crashed his fast car’. Where have I heard that one before? Result: 305 articles.

Footballer crashes fast car

For comparison, here are the stories that relate to terrible 2006 incident where a car driver slipped on ice and crashed into a group of cyclists and killed 4 of them including a 14yo boy which only resulted in 15 news stories that Google News can find today. The drive, who admitted that he may ‘very possibly’ have been driving too fast, was only fined a total of £180 with £35 costs and given 6 points on his license.

Welsh cyclist deaths 2006

My only conclusion is that motorists (and I am one) hate to be reminded about how dangerous this activity is and of the risks that we are taking on a regular basis. We prefer to read about other stuff, even if it is that we are going to be able to drive faster and take more risks while driving. So much for ‘ending all car crash fatalities‘ as was predicted by the BBC recently!

3 Responses to “What makes the news and what doesn’t and why?”

  1. Amoeba February 28, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    If one were to conduct a survey of the public and were to ask questions such as: rank the total numbers of pedestrians killed in the UK between 1988 and 2009 by different transport modes in order of increasing fatalities (low to high):
    a) Motor-vehicles on the road
    c) Cyclists on the road
    d) Cyclists on the pavement
    e) Motor-vehicles on the pavement

    I wonder what proportion would get the answers correct.

    PS The answers are
    a) 8201, b) 30, c) 3, d) 820. Note: They were not in the correct order.

    DfT figures. Assumes that 10% of pedestrian casualties occured on the pavement or verge as was the case in 2007-2008.

  2. Graham Martin-Royle February 28, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    That video was frightening, that was attempted murder.

    According to the Daily Mail, it’s not just upping the speed limit on motorways that the government wants, they also want to re-time all traffic lights so that pedestrians get less time to cross cos, yep you got it, it holds up the traffic. Pedestrians just don’t figure with these people.

    As for the railways, whenever there is a collision at a level crossing, it’s always made out that the railway is to blame even though, 9 times out of 10, it’s a motorist that’s at fault.

  3. David Hembrow March 1, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Peter, I have to point out that there are different attitudes as to what is newsworthy in different places.

    As for the motorway thing, I don’t get it at all. Quite apart from all the other problems it’ll cause, surely increasing the consumption of imported oil can only harm the economy.

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