Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Front Page

Among the innumerable puzzles that only grow more baffling with age is the process by which news items rise to the top of the newscast and the front of the fishwrapper. For example, as you probably know because the story has achieved considerable national prominence, the most important thing to happen in the Boston Metropolitan area in the past 2 1/2 years is that a guy murdered his wife and baby in a suburban town in January 2006. Yesterday he was finally convicted and if you're interested, you can see the front page of the Boston Globe here. No, World War III hasn't started, it's just a trial. By the way, the other front page stories of the day are that the Archdiocese is moving its headquarters to Braintree (they had to sell their answer to the Palace of Versaille in Brighton to pay off the sex abuse victims), the state is charging some companies with securities fraud, and two birds at the local zoo are declining to do the nasty.

I looked it up, and according to FBI data, 1,107 American women were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends or exes in 2005. (That's the latest year they have data for. BTW, this number has been generally declining over the past two decades.) So why does one here and one there get the OJ treatment? Obviously, the people are white, this happened in an affluent suburb, and there was a little extra drama for the reporters to seize on since the perpetrator initially fled to his native England, but in fact the large majority of these murders involve white people so who really knows?

Anyway, this was a big national splash on all the main news web sites, and again when the guy was sentenced today. And no, as far as I can tell nobody used it as an occasion for some background reporting on the prevalence and nature of intimate partner violence or otherwise made constructive use of the story. It's just a tawdry little drama plucked more or less at random from the pile.

So what else happened yesterday? Well, for one thing, the government of Afghanistan accused Pakistani intelligence of trying to murder Hamid Kharzai. That would seem to be a cause for war, no? Probably not though, since Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Uh oh. Not an important story, though.

Iraqi officials accused U.S. troops of murdering 8 Iraqi civilians in 2 separate incidents, while there were bombings and assassinations all over the place in that country, plus a U.S. soldier killed. But they don't bother to report any of that any more, it's inconsistent with the narrative we're supposed to believe, which is that violence is down in Iraq, and The Surge is a big success. (Completely false.)

There are quite a few other stories they might have considered for the front page, quite a few of which they did not cover at all, others of which got buried. I can't figure it out. Can you?

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