The coverage of two very different stories over the past week has served as an interesting barometer of UK newspaper priorities. One is a tragic story from west Africa which has been developing since mid-April but gaining long-overdue worldwide attention in the past week, the other is a celebrity tale from Hollywood.
There is growing anger about how little media attention there has been on the human rights abuses in Nigeria which have seen more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped and subjected to terrible crimes.
Meanwhile it was almost impossible to miss the news that George Clooney got engaged this week.
Just five of nine national daily newspapers* covered the ongoing situation in Nigeria during the period of 28 April to 3 May compared to eight which covered the news of Clooney's engagement:
The story count for the week also shows a similar pattern with more stories in total being written about the Clooney engagement (34) than the Nigerian kidnappings (21). However, in terms of word count the two stories have seen almost identical levels of coverage over the past week with 11,449 words printed about George Clooney and 11,043 printed about the Nigerian kidnappings (though 4,824 of those words appeared in just one newspaper, The Guardian).
The Guardian's dominant role (4,824 words) in covering the news from Nigeria can be clearly seen when looking at the top three media outlets by word count. The Times (2,688 words) produced the second highest level of coverage followed, some may think surprisingly, by the Mirror (1,504 words):
Perhaps also surprising, The Guardian, with 2,430 words on the subject, printed the greatest amount of coverage of the George Clooney engagement (including 491 words on 'How will getting hitched affect Clooney's image?'). The Telegraph (2,090) was second followed by the Daily Mail (2,006).
Of course it could be argued that some of this may be down to the fact broadsheets typically run longer articles, though that isn't strictly true in this case. The Sun's longest article on George Clooney was 957 words, compared to 942 for The Guardian. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail and the Express produced the most articles about Clooney with seven apiece over the week, while the longest single article was an incredible 1,200 word monster in The Telegraph.
This is only a simple analysis of how the papers treated just two stories over a six day period and suggesting word count or story count are, on their own, an effective measure of priority - or quality - of coverage would be foolish. Looking at the balance struck on each paper individually perhaps paints the clearest picture of where papers' priorities were.
The Times and The Guardian had almost identical ratios of Nigerian news to Clooney engagement news:
It is of course entirely up to each newspaper to decide what their readers will want or need to know about and the Telegraph was obviously convinced its readers would be more interested in and better served by a focus on Clooney, while The Mirror was almost the exact opposite:
The Sun and The Express clearly believed the news from Nigeria would not be of interest or of importance to their readers, while both gave significant coverage to George Clooney's news:
The Daily Mail also decided against covering the Nigerian news while the Independent believed its readers would have - or should have - no interest in Clooney's happy news:
* For the purposes of this research the national newspapers analysed were the main print editions of The Sun, Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Star, Daily Mail, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Guardian and The Times printed during the period 28 April to 3 May. The Independent's i was omitted due to the duplication of content already counted in the Independent.