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What's The Biggest Story In The World?

(AP)
As the Middle East conflict continues to dominate headlines, questions are inevitably arising about whether other major conflicts throughout the world are getting the coverage that they are due. We have wondered along with others about whether "Iraq fatigue" might be setting in. In his Washington Post chat this afternoon, Howard Kurtz griped, along with his readers, that "Iraq has gotten short shrift over the last two weeks. For television, in particular, most of the reporters who were in Iraq are now in Israel and Lebanon. I understand the impulse -- the Mideast war is new and novel, while the carnage in Iraq is a three-year-old story that has a certain repetitive quality -- but it's still a place where 130,000 American troops are fighting, and where the outcome is anything but certain."

We've mentioned BBC News' new blog, The Editors, before -- it's the Beeb's look inside its own editorial operations. Today on the site, Craig Oliver, the editor of the BBC's "Ten O'Clock News" explains the reasoning behind what amount of coverage that three major conflicts throughout the world receive by relaying some "stark statistics" about each conflict that seem to contradict the amount coverage each has received:

  • Around 30 to 40 people are killed every day in the current Israel/Lebanon conflict.
  • About 100 people are killed every day in the violence in Iraq.
  • And 1,200 people are killed every day in the war in the Congo.

    All three of these stories are due to appear on tonight's Ten O'Clock News. They will probably run in that order - with the Middle East getting by far the most attention.

    Does this say something about how we value human life? It's a fair question and one I worry about.

    Here is our reasoning for not reversing the order. The war in the Congo has been going on for decades - it is desperately important (as we will reflect tonight), and a story we will keep returning to. Similarly the Ten has led the way in attempting to show the scale of the violence in Iraq in recent months - we have regularly led the programme with stories from there, and the BBC is the only British broadcaster with a full time commitment to being there.

  • Oliver explains further why the Middle East garners the most airtime:
  • The sheer complexity of the situation requires space to help provide context and analysis.
  • The current conflict plugs into so many other stories around the world, from what Tony Blair and George W. Bush call the "War on Terror", through to the price of oil, even the situation in Afghanistan.
  • Many people fear the consequences of conflict in the Middle East more than anywhere else, and it is our job to help people understand a "scary world."

    In short, our judgment is that Middle East is currently the biggest story in the world - by a wide margin - and it has the greatest implications for us all.