How to avoid crime news in the UK – you can’t

Do online newspapers need a separate page and category for “crime”? That would enable people to browse the real news without being bombarded with lurid negativity, and thus reduce the overall level of pessimism. In the long-term it might even boost social cohesion.

Let’s have a quick look at how bypassing crime news is simply not possible when browsing the news in the UK:

News sources:

* Bing News: One category for UK, filled almost entirely with sensational crime reporting, despite the way that Brexit is swamping the headlines.

* Google News: One category for UK, about half filled with crime reporting.

* BBC News website: One category for UK, crime seemingly not allowed to dominate the small selection of ‘front page’ stories.

* BBC News regional website: On clicking down from the main BBC News to News | England, it’s almost entirely crime reporting. On drilling down further to my local region, it’s almost entirely crime reporting — plus a cheerful video feature on “A Ghoulish Tour of Medieval Punishments”. That’s set readers up nicely, for a wet Tuesday morning.

Major newspapers:

* The Telegraph‘s News | UK category now takes the form of odd sort of rolling Twitter-like timeline, with all the stories jumbled together by time-stamp. One assumes that it’s all robo-controlled and there’s no human curation or policy on weighting of crime stories.

* The Daily Mail is, of course, notorious for its lurid and extensive tabloid coverage of crime in the UK. Online, the Mail is radically different in ordering than its paper version. The News sub-page has banding which acts as a sort of categorisation of stories by type, though. So it is somewhat possible for the expert news-skimmer to skip the most salacious and gruesome crime reporting. Turning off image-loading in one’s browser also helps make the Mail a better experience. I’m assuming that everyone has an ad-blocker, these days.

* The Independent‘s News | UK page currently seems to be avoiding crime entirely, in favour of anguished moaning about Brexit.

* The Guardian‘s UK News page seems to minimise crime reporting to a few stories. Perhaps that’s one of its appeals to its left readership. Possibly there’s even a political dimension to that, in terms of readers not wishing to peer too closely at the relentless chaos brought about on the ground by their own airy Guardianista ideas.

* The Times is behind a strong paywall.

* The local press is, of course, usually a hotbed of crime reporting. I’ve never seen a local newspaper website that gives Crime its own News page.

Therefore I’d suggest that one of the key things that the UK’s new Culture & Media minister might do is to quietly suggest that Google News and Bing News and the BBC might hive off the crime news to its own page. That would be a very simple move, but an incredibly useful one in terms of promoting social cohesion. By doing this it would allow intelligent people to engage with real local news, rather than having to turn off all news because they just can’t face the constant wall of vile negativity.