This time last year it would have been inconceivable to imagine our news outlets being dominated by one central news story. If we thought the focus on Brexit had been bad enough, we had no warning for the almost complete disregard for other new stories once COVID became the dominant headline. Of course this was inevitable, with the death toll from the pandemic in the UK having just passed the horrifying milestone of 120,000. This has unsurprisingly been the key focus of news stories, however as we approach the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown, it is important to look back on the other news stories that have occurred in this past year; stories that would have, if COVID had not been around, made headline news. It is interesting to note how quickly we as a country have adapted to only hearing one kind of news story. This is not, of course, to say that many haven’t been seeking out other news and trying to get a more well- rounded picture of what has been going on. However, I think I can speak for a lot of us in observing that our worlds have certainly become smaller and more closed- in during this past year. An inevitable outcome of survival instinct is to hunker down and protect our immediate circle. This can certainly be seen in how we have digested our news throughout this pandemic.
Some of the news stories that we may have missed this year include the ongoing Ethiopian Tigray conflict; occurring during November the conflict lasted three weeks, causing almost 1 million people to be relocated. It has hugely significant impacts for the peace of the region, with many warning about the possibility of ethnic cleansing resulting from this conflict. It is difficult to say how much coverage this story would have received in normal times, however undoubtedly it would have attracted a lot more attention had the UK news not been dominated by the pandemic. Warnings of this full- scale humanitarian crisis, have failed to hit the headlines. Foreign Policy commented on this story (seen here https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/12/21/global-news-stories-you-missed-2020/ ), but only reported on as a story we may have missed. Obviously, the information about this conflict is there to be found online if you specifically search for it, however the lack of commentary on easily accessible news outlets or headlines, seems disproportionate to the severity of the story.
It is not just sad or worrying news stories we have missed out on, but also positive ones. Bloomberg published an article, (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-12-20/the-good-news-you-might-have-missed-in-covid-year-2020) about how 2020 was an extremely significant month for LGBTQ+ rights, which largely went un- commented on; in May of last year Costa Rica legalized same- sex marriage, with Montenegro doing the same two months later. In the US election, more LGBTQ+ candidates stood than ever before, and the nation’s first transgender state senator was elected. These long overdue and significant milestones are hugely positive, however seem to have slipped under the radar, not only in relation to the COVID reporting, but also the more mainstream coverage of the US election.
These are only two examples of vital worldwide news stories we have missed in the year of COVID, however there are countless more. This lack of coverage perhaps also raises a question more generally of the UK media outlets often failing to comment on wider issues. Even in regard to COVID, recently we have heard very little of how other countries are coping, when at the beginning of the pandemic, this was widely reported on. The focus on domestic issues by the UK media has always been an issue, but this pandemic has exemplified this concern. After Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, announced on the 23rd February, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel in regard to this pandemic; and perhaps this will also bring about the return of a more outward- looking reporting of stories, rather than the UK COVID focus which has dictated the past year.
Image: Filip Mishevski on Unsplash