Friday, April 08, 2005

This is not the news

There are two news stories that used to appear regularly 20 or more years ago but do not today.

One involves air crashes. In the 1970s the loss of an airliner, sometimes with hundreds of casualties, seemed to be reported on a monthly basis. While fashions in news change, if this were still going on it would certainly be reported, so we can take it that air travel is a lot safer than it used to be.

The second news story involves people swimming the English Channel. Shivering figures larded with goose grease used to appear on our screens regularly, but we don't see them any more. What is going on?

Thinking about it, the most popular story in this category was that a particular child had become the youngest person to swim the Channel. A little research reveals why we don't get these any more.

Dover Museum's website records that the youngest person to have made the crossing is Thomas Gregory, who did it in 1988 at the age of 11. The same site records that since 1994 the rules have forbidden solo attempts by swimmers under the age of 14. Another example of modern safety culture, or were there a series of unfortunate drownings that the authorities hushed up?

Thinking about it, the sort of news stories we don't get nowadays tells us a lot about our society and the way it has changed. There are no more great industrial strikes any more and we don't hear of several Formula 1 drivers dying each season as we used to. The picture is of a safer but less colourful world.

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