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No News as Good News

August 16th, 2013 · No Comments · Journalism, Rome, The National, UAE

It was on Tuesday that several people in the newsroom of The National chuckled over one of the two cover stories on the front page, that morning, of an English-language newspaper rival, here in the UAE.

UAE unaffected by Indian onion price hike

Early this week, in the wake of Ramadan and Eid, things had been slow in the UAE. No question. But that headline, and story, treated like a major topic, still felt like something out of the Pan-Arabian Enquirer.

Had our competitor’s website been hacked?

It was everything you wouldn’t want in a front-page story. The cost of onions in another country. And how it was not affecting the UAE. Essentially, nothing happened. Which makes “dog bites man” feel like “Man lands on moon”, in terms of news value.

But later that day … we could have been wishing for a news cycle so slow as to elevate onions to page A1.

The epically bad story and headline, which appeared on the morning of August 14, were followed a few hours later by the outbreak of violence in Egypt.

Newspapers in the region have, since then, had no lack of hard news stories. About death and destruction.

It brought to mind the notion of “no news is bad news” as well as the adage about “happy is the country that has no history” — sometimes credited to the historian Edward Gibbon, of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire fame.

I am fairly sure Egypt wishes it had less history going on, in August of 2013.

Makes a person wish for the good old days, when the price of onions not changing was front-page news.


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