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:
- Norway is closer geographically to the UK than is Morocco
- Norway is seen as more comparable to the UK from a development perspective than is Morocco
- It is perceived that an incident similar to that in Norway is more likely to occur in the UK than is a plane crash similar to that in Morocco
- In Norway, there is an after-story—the trial, the motives etc. There will be little by way of an equivalent in Morocco
- The Moroccan casualties were military personnel as opposed to innocent citizens. (The word innocent there is to prompt thought; not to cast aspersions on the Moroccan casualties.)
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.