“News” and news…

7 12 2011

I was in France this year during the month of May. My French language skills are poor (I can shop and order in restaurants, I can ask questions but am unlikely to know the answers), but one of my great joys when travelling is to watch local news broadcast. (And yes, for the cynics amongst you, I could watch those same overseas newscasts in Australia on SBS – and in fact I do watch Al Jazeera news when I can – but it isn’t the same as being in a different country surrounded by the locals and watching what they are watching.)

Anyway, I digress.

During the month of May, French news was obsessed by two topics. Firstly, The Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair, where the head of the International Monetary Fund was accused of attempted rape of a hotel maid in New York. My understanding French news was greatly aided by its complete obsession with this topic – repetition being an aid to learning. Strauss-Kahn and his proposed and eventual successor, Christine Lagarde, are both French. (There is a whole topic to be explored here about why Europeans dominate the upper echelons of the IMF, as opposed to, say Asians or Africans. Particularly since the Euro-zone is looking so wobbly. This is not that story however.)

This story dominated French news for most of the month until Osama Bin Laden was killed, and then the broadcast was shared between the two topics.

In the midst of this I emailed a friend in Australia to ask “Is Australian media as obsessed with the Strauss-Kahn affair as French media is?”

Her answer? “No – Australian media is covering planking.”

Now as I had been out of the country I didn’t even know what planking was, but it turns out to be photographing yourself in inappropriate and unlikely places lying face-down and rigid across….well anything really. Preferably on the job, but the picture above is an example. More photos can be found here. Apparently it started in the media when someone died planking in the workplace.

So imagine my amusement when I got sent the top ten list of Australian Facebook topics for 2011 and found planking as number one (death of Osama bin laden is number four). Compare to the world-widetopics.

So here is the direct comparison.

1. Planking
2. Cyclone Yasi
3. Census (subject of a campaign)
4. Death of Osama bin Laden
5. Skillex
6. Victorian Floods
7. Daniel Morcombe (abducted and murdered teenager)
8. Charlie Sheen
9. Death of Amy Winehouse
10. Cadel Evans (Australian, won the Tour de France)

1. Death of Osama bin Laden
2. Greenbay Packers win Superbowl
3. Casey Anthony found not guilty
4. Charlie Sheen
5. Death of Steve Jobs
6. The Royal Wedding
7. Death of Amy Winehouse
8. Call of duty: Modern Warfare 3
9. Military operations begin in Libya
10. Hurricane Irene

A few interesting things. The Royal Wedding did not make the top ten in Australia. Perhaps it is time we became a republic? Steve Jobs didn’t make it in Australia. The death of Osama bin Laden only made it to number four on the Australian list – beaten out by the campaign to get Australians to complete the census online. Surely one of the most successful campaigns.

Skillex was a training apprenticeship event held in all states, so presumably that was another successful corporate campaign.

And of course, planking did not rate a mention in the worldwide rankings. Are we surprised? Seriously Australia – planking?




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