Monday, November 21, 2005

Cynical media? Not unless you're guilty - or an Australian sports fan

Before I moved from Australia to London a year ago, I was warned that the British media was more negative and cynical than the Australian media. With access to more than 300 million news items in the Factiva database, I thought I'd do a quick analysis of headlines to see if I could make any high level comparisons.

So...does the media report more on wins or losses? Surprisingly, the word "win" appeared in 84% of the 36,304 headlines in the UK media last year, that contained either the word "win" or "lose". This was on par with the ratio in the 9,000+ global sources in The percentage of headlines in the North American and Australian media referencing the word "win" was marginally higher, with both media sets reporting a ratio of 86% for "win" and 14% for "lose". Conclusion: winners are grinners, and no one likes a loser - unless...

You're talking about the terms "guilty" vs "innocent". In the British media, 82% of the 3,655 headlines that contained the terms "guilty" or "innocent", reported "guilty". This percentage increased in the Australian media to 89%, in the global media to 90%, and in the North American media to 93%. Conclusion: guilty people seem to make headlines far more frequently than innocent people, which is a bit of bad luck, unless you believe that any PR is good PR.

The terms "bad luck" vs "good luck" in the headlines returned a fairly consistent ratio across the global, North American and British media, which ran at about 41% for the term "bad luck" and 59% for "bad luck". The luck was up in Australia, where the ratio swung the other way and more than half of the headlines contained the term "bad luck". I suspect that most of those articles were about The Ashes series this year. But let's not go there. Speaking of disasters...

The North American media used the term "disaster" five times as much as it used the term "miracle". 85% of the 15,757 articles in North America last year reported "disaster" in the headlines. The percentage of the word "disaster" in the global media headlines was 82%; 72% in the UK and 69% in the Australian media. So with the remaining 31% of headlines in the Australian media reporting the term "miracle", I'm hoping that the bulk of those articles are about upcoming performances by the Wallabies.

Hmm. Cynical media or cynical reader?


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