Moroccan deaths outnumbered Norwegian deaths: what makes a news story?

On Friday, 76 people died in two related attacks in Norway: a mass shooting on Utøya Island and a car bomb in the capital Oslo.

Today, 78 people died when a military aircraft crashed into a mountain in southern Morocco.

Today, four days after the Norwegian tragedy, its news occupies the number two slot on the BBC News site. Twelve hours after the Moroccan plane crash, it occupies tenth spot, almost ready to be assigned to the archives, when it hits 13.

News is a funny old game. While there are political ramifications that have resulted from the Norway tragedy, the human fallout from the two events, the grief and devastation caused, will be similar.

But below are the key differences that, in my opinion, make one more newsworthy to British news outlets than the other:

Interestingly, at its most human the article about the Moroccan plane crash talks of an “accident”. Yet the stories surrounding the Norwegian events as “tragedies”.

The relative prominence given to the two news stories reminded me of my post of three years ago: What is news? In many respects, it’s a combination of personal risk and personal interest—all news becoming less relevant with time—although the measure is much more complex than that.

I wonder whether the BBC use a set of metrics to gauge the relative ratings of their news stories.


One Response to “Moroccan deaths outnumbered Norwegian deaths: what makes a news story?”

  1. Paul Clarke on July 27th, 2011 09:27

    I’ll quibble with bullet point 3 a little, if I may. I think it might be a contrasting point along those lines: surprise, rather than likelihood.

    Planes crash. Youth camps don’t get shot up.

    And you don’t mention skin colour/race. I think it’s a factor, albeit a small one.

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