Culture / Laura Owen

Forgotten News: NEWS!

Naturally the first week of the home Olympics was a big deal in Britain, but the extensive coverage it received made it look like nothing else in the world was happening. The situation in Syria was forgotten. The on-going and ever-worsening banking scandals were forgotten. The whole world seemed to be put on hold for over a week.

I conducted a study of the main British newspapers (The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mirror, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and the Sun) to find out what their front pages looked like over the last 10 days (see Table 1). The results were shocking. Between Saturday 29th July and Sunday 5th August only one front page of one newspaper concentrated on a story that wasn’t the Olympics. Only three other pages were split between the Olympics and another story. 100% of The Times front pages during this time focussed on the Olympics only. The same is true of The Daily Mirror, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Sun. A fleeting glance of the front pages as you walked through a supermarket gave the impression that the rest of the world was meandering along peacefully, not wanting to disturb the Olympics.

There was even a news story about the Olympics being on the news! It was reported that editors over the weekend had trouble deciding whether to put Bolt or Murray on their front pages after their successes on Sunday. It is debatable whether this story is even considered news, yet alone whether it is more important than events in Syria!

It was not just the tabloids that were overtaken by Olympics fever. The BBC News website did not have a single ‘top story’ which didn’t involve the Olympics for days in a row.

Things do seem to be improving now, with news such as the Liberal Democrat ‘split’ from the Tories and the diplomatic moves in Syria slowly beginning to hit the headlines. But it still leaves many people wondering what happened last week.

Maybe British people on the whole are happy hearing about nothing but the Olympics and concentrating on being patriotic for a fortnight. But even if this is the case it raises other questions. Is world news really that important at all, if for over a week we are happy to live without it? And what important political or other world stories could be slipping through the net as Olympic mania takes over and fills the headlines?

Table One: Front page stories of the main British newspapers (Information from

The Times The Guardian Daily Mirror The Independent The Daily Telegraph The Daily Mail The Sun
Sat 28th July Flying Start to Olympics Olympic opening ceremony It’s Maj-Ical (Olympic opening ceremony) Olympic opening ceremony Going for Gold – Opening ceremony Blast Off – Olympics opening ceremony Let the Games begin – Opening ceremony
Sun 29th July Looking for a British Hero – Olympics Split – Syria opposition rebels and Bradley Wiggins The Queen at the Opening ceremony Olympics The Queen at the opening ceremony Day One and Britain has Olympic fever Olympic fever
Mon 30th July We Will Fill the Empty Seats – Coe Britain’s First Medal and Empty Seats Silver for Lizzie Armistead Lizzie Armistead’s Silver Medal and Empty Seats The Show is On the Road Olympic Security Farce – Lost keys Olympic fever
Tues 31st July Olympics – Gymnastics China’s record win in pool ‘suspicious’ Kate Cheers on Zara and Tom Twitter Abuse Split – Everything but the Gold and Cost of Libraries British Gymnasts on a roll Drugs Row – China’s pool win Wanted – Gold Medal for Britain
Weds 1st Aug Olympics – Table Tennis The Greatest Olympian – Phelps Here Wiggo – Bradley Wiggins Ministers plot end to civil service neutrality Olympics – keep calm and carry on Zara’s Gold medal Going for Wiggold – Bradley Wiggins
Thurs 2nd Aug Olympics Bradley Wiggins Day we rode and rowed into Olympic history Bradley Wiggins win Rowing and Cycling Golden winners Gold for Britain
Fri 3rd Aug Olympics – C2 Split – team GB and Syria Tears Of Hoy Split – It’s raining medals and Syria Olympics – Royal Guests Chris Hoy Medals Ahoy!
Sat 4th Aug British cycling Gold for Vicky Pendleton Here come the girls – medal wins Jess Ennis starts her Olympics Gold for Vicky Pendleton Vicky Pendleton’s Gold Pedal to the Medals – Vicky Pendleton
Sun 5th Aug Jess Ennis wins Jess Ennis Jess Ennis Jess Ennis Jess Ennis wins Jess Ennis Jess Ennis


Olympics headlines Olympics and another story Another story only

Laura Owen


51 thoughts on “Forgotten News: NEWS!

  1. Cool media experiment, and really like the visual you’ve put together. I’ve felt over-saturated with Olympics news as well despite not having a TV or access to newspapers. It seeped into my world in other ways (Twitter, etc.). It’s interesting how I know a lot of the results and the big stories without having watched anything.

  2. Great analysis and an interesting look at how big of a local and national impact the Olympics can have for the host city. Even here in the US, the Olympics dominated headlines.

  3. Awesome study and a VERY good point. I’m an on and off again news junkie (I go in spurts). Honestly, sometimes it is nice to see something unifying and uplifting on the front page. Sometimes, a bit of sunshine sells better than doom and gloom. I know newspapers aren’t supposed to be about making people feel better. I get it, I just don’t see much of a problem with it. The olympics don’t happen all the time and they only last a few weeks. The problem in Syria has been brewing for months and, for the average westerner, there hasn’t been massive change.

    • Agree completely. Of course we want to read about Olympic news, it is an exciting event. However, just because the Olympics are on, doesn’t mean there is no more trouble in the world that is worth reporting on.

  4. I think paying attention to current events, like Syria, is vital. But, I also think people need a break, sometimes, from a constant barrage of bad news. At their best, the Olympics remind us of our commonality – and can inspire us to increased concern for and involvement in the struggles of others.

  5. I was thinking this the other day. Events like the olympics are always used to cover up problems in the government and the world. Everyone’s focusing on the positive and forgetting the negative, god knows what the governments been up to when we’ve not been looking.

    • It seems to be happening more and more. Celebrity news on page 1 or 2 of a serious news publication is no longer an exception. I actually learnt of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart’s relationship issues through the Guardian. A top news story!

      • It seems its the same old story. I really don’t understand why some pictures of a 20-something doing 20-something things should be such a big media strom. Surely not front page news.

        The thing is, we can expect this from the Sun, Mirror etc. But I really feel newspapers like the Guardian and the Independent should know better. I know that stories of naked Harry are popular and a lot of people want to read about it, and that is why the tabloids sell so well. However, there is also a large share of the population that has no interest in Harry’s bum and I’d like to believe that there are newspapers that still want to cater to my needs and put more serious news stories on the cover. It really upsets me that the Guardian is starting to copy the tabloids more and more. Why would we need different newspapers if they all start to emulate each other!

      • Hi – another interesting reply – thanks.

        You may have noticed a write-up in The Mail (also online) today about a new book about Ruth Ellis the last woman to be hanged in the UK. I have a particular interest as I was the ghost writer of ‘Ruth Ellis My Sister’s Secret Life’ published in 2005. My findings on the subject were sensational – And I don’t mind saying so myself! But publicity! Nothing other than a short serialisation on one day, then nothing in the nationals. Not even one review. However, the number of papers that interviewed me and prepared articles, not to mention TV producers wanting to make documentaries, was astonishing. Only to be dumped at the last minute. We allegedly have a free press. I say we do not.

  6. You have an interesting angle on the Olympics. It reminds me of the time (in the late sixties or early seventies I think) when Simon and Garfunkle sang the traditional Silent Night song and laced it with the news.
    I understand where you are coming from but can I point out that the world is in constant chaos, always has been, but our media is more thorough and immediate these days. We are oversaturated with the news of death and disaster, corruption and hate. Getting a break from it for a handful of days once in every four years isn’t too much to ask. Believe me, we’ll be back on track pretty soon.

    • I agree with you that I break from all the disasters and death is a welcome change. However, all the reporting on the olympics can leave you with a sense that we care more about who wins a game of basketbal than a major disaster somewhere overseas.

  7. I will never understand why the Olympics pique such interest. Before they start, I’m counting the days until they’re over. I feel the media provided them is just another way in which the arts are snubbed & sports glorified. Fantastic post.

    • Thank you. I’m not saying that there should be no reporting on the olympics. Obviously it is a major event and a lot of people would like to read/hear about it. It’s just that a little balance would be nice.

  8. I will never understand why the Olympics pique such interest. Before they start, I’m counting the days until they’re over. I feel the media provided them is just another way in which the arts are snubbed & sports glorified. Fantastic post!

  9. I felt exactly the same in Japan where I live. All the media focused on ONLY Olympic games for the past weeks, and other things that should have been the head news on TV or newspapers were totally fogotten, or less prioritized.

    Where have the debates on Osprey in Okinawa gone? Any news on reconstruction of Tohoku Area where the earthquake hit? Hasn’t murders somewhere in the country and bullies in school occured for the last week? If not, then, that is good. During the Olympic, we had Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Memorial Ceremonies; the grandson of Truman- the U.S. President during the World War II who ordered to drop atomic bombs, attended and offered a silent prayer at the ceremony. I think it should have been taken as a headnews.

    As you mentioned about Syria situation, there are so many people in the world who are not even related to Olympic games but just to live to survive in poverty under $1 a a day, to live through discrimination, and to face internal conflicts.

    Numer of medals were more important than number of people who were killed during the term of Olympic games in media. However, I am not blaming on the games and the athletes themselves.

    In case of Japan, I think people who experienced Tokyo Olympic are now placed in executive positions and worship Olympic games, so if the generation changes, the media approach may change, but I am not sure though…

    I think people related to media should really think about how to deliver and chose what should be on the news. Anyway, I totally agree with your point ot view. Thanks for your posting.

    • Thank you for your reply. I’m glad you liked the post. I agree, it would have been so much better if the media had been a little more diverse on what to report about during the weeks of Olympic madness.

  10. I’ve had it the same way- I don’t follow the games actively, but I feel pretty up to date on all the major happenings just by being in the saturated zone, so to speak. That chart was certainly striking. I guess it’s between giving people the information they want to know and they information they ought to know.

    • You’re right. It is pretty understandable that sometimes people just get sick of all the shocking news stories we read and hear about every day. It seems like the media felt the Olympics were a perfect opportunity to take a little vacation from that.

  11. When I worked in daily newspaper journalism, I used to hate the Olympics – for the reason you state above. They almost eliminate the coverage of world news, and leave people, I fear, with a false impression of what is really important. We’ll end up like inane American flag-wavers, who wallow in self-congratulation and patriotic ballyhoo while the security state goes about its murderous business.

  12. wow, your study was really interesting to ponder over. I did find that all the olympic news did seem to cloud over every reporting station, but in a way, it reminded everyone how the world comes together united under athletic passion, than divided with politics, as news stations normally display.

  13. Pingback: How puff sends the real news packing « Hardcaw: Something to crow about

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