Headlines across the UK, this week have focussed significantly on statistics and science; Individual stories shared, but is the media taking into consideration audience needs.
Now, more than 100,000 lives have been lost, due to the Coronavirus and as devastating that number is, many more are grieving. I took to social media to see how consumers of news are responding to the media. Results showed that 100% of people learn more from statistics than sensitive, human interest pieces. One individual added, ‘At this rate [stories] should be harsher‘.
There is importance in statistics/facts as they confirm truth, to an audience. We learn from statistics. They also speak a universal language; A chat, for example is more readily translatable than an essay. However, by rewriting the same story in a different style, nothing new has been published and readers quickly move on. The same applies to human interest; too much of anything can be overwhelming and lead to complete disengagement. For me, as a journalist being aware of the latest headlines is essential, but is also emotionally draining and difficult to absorb. Death, Hospital, Poverty. Mourning, Control, Threat and so on.
How much news do you consume and how does it make you feel?
‘I probably consume too much as I have updates from both BBC and Sky News on my phone, but I want to keep informed.’, ‘Sadly the news rarely inspires me in the current pandemic. I find it hard to listen to sometimes but I feel obliged to keep informed.’ Liz, South Yorkshire
‘I have avoided the news for about 10 months... Generally the news is quite depressing and so, because I cannot have any actual impact on it I have to avoid it for my own wellbeing.’ Martin, Derbyshire
Covid-19 has controlled the media, for almost a year. In the last week, numbers have been particularly shocking, but the approach taken is even more so. The BBC show, ‘Panorama’ aired ‘100,000 Deaths’ only hours after Boris Johnson announced the latest figures. The title felt heartless; For the 100,000 lives lost, twice the number of people are left bereaved, with no respected time to grieve as numbers increase and the story is written again.
Hard and Soft News
Hard news is the news we read below headlines; Timely events; The stories with major points of investigation, data and public affairs. For example, crime, natural disaster/hazard and Politics. Local Newspapers, in particular, seem to focus on hard news in their area. The purpose of articles are missed, being published quickly, to show they ‘got’ the exclusive.
Soft news are stories that evoke emotion and human interests; Sports, Travel, Lifestyle. These stories will often run at any time, irrelevant to the ‘big’ news, because they’re in the back row. Magazines and Newsletters publish well-crafted pieces, to suit the needs of their reader, unlike hard news.
These are the two main types of news, serving different purposes. The emotive pieces we do read, have similar narratives and are lacking. George, from Nottinghamhire told me, ‘It feels like I’m living the same day time and time again! I find the stats actually take away from the scale of the issue’ in regards to the news he reads and Connie, from Wakefield referred to the darker days of 2020. ‘It’s never ending. Life isn’t fun if we can’t do what we love. It seemed to never stop being negative.’ Arguably, we are in a better position than March 2020, with the vaccine being rolled out, but Matt Hancock invites us to read every detail on how serious the virus, still is. Most people don’t understand the language (political/medical jargon) chosen, reading only terrifying numbers, skimming over the detail. This reinforces the question, Is it too much news?
Both types of news are significant and are what make our papers ‘work’- Columns and feature stories are two more popular ways we consume news. Disregarding data journalism and the latest ONS statistics on Covid-19, isn’t the answer, but balancing the need to inform, with the need to protect and support is. Journalism is not merely about making or delivering a headline story. It is about taking a subject, light or heavy and composing an original piece of work, that will make the audience ask questions and take away honest (definitely not misleading) information.
Next time you turn on the TV, or click onto your favourite news page, don’t just read the title in bold. Nobody is just a headline; Headlines grab your attention, but the story beneath it evokes your emotion.