2011 SEASON
31st December

RACING NEWS

Points scheme:
9-6-4-3-2-1-1-

Welcome to RACING NEWS - an ongoing project from AView.
 CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP:
 


RACING ECONOMICS
1401


RACING AFRICA
1204


POLITICS F1
1128


EURASIA RACING
1081


TEAM JUSTICE
1014


SPORT GP 551


GP HEALTH
418


SCUDERIA DISASTER
378


ARTS GP
267

10°
TEAM TERROR 250

11°
ENVIRONMENT GP
230

12°
F1 TECHNOLOGY
200

13°
DIPLOMACY GP
151

14°
TEAM AMERICA
146

15°
EDUCATION F1
96


Each day Ivan Methuselah and Aidan Ross receive the [[Channel 4 News]] Snowmail email which outlines the provisional running order for that evening's Channel 4 News. Each story is allocated points according to its placement in the email. If a story appears in two emails it constitutes a "Driver" and appears in the right-hand table in its own right. Otherwise it is classed as a "General Driver". Each driver is categorized as belonging to a particular "Constructor" according to the assumed news-relevance of the first appearance of that story, and its points are added to that Constructor's total to create the left-hand table. Stories from abroad are generally classified along geographical lines, but certain foreign events (natural disasters, terrorist acts etc.) know no borders. Naturally the categorization is a little arbitrary: the fields have been informed by a trial run last year but are subject to subsequent revision.

 DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP:
 

Libyan Uprising
763

Gov. Spending/Taxation
362

Phone Hacking*
337
▲1 Domestic Economy
321
▼1 International Economy
315
▲2 Syrian Uprising
242
▼1 Egyptian Protests
236
▼1 Football
222

Banking & Markets
185
▲2 10°
NHS
156
▼1 11°
Afghanistan
154
▼1 12° Riots 149

13°
United States of America
129

14° Japan Earthquake 124

15°
Political Protests
120

16°
Natural Environment
117

17° Trade Disputes
112

18°
Greece
110

19°
Computing
110

20°
Conservative Party
106

21° Joanna Yeates 85

22° Al-Qaeda
84

23°
Transport
84

24°
Labour Party
81

25° Tunisian Revolution
79

26°
Liam Fox Scandal
79

27° Employment & Migration
77

28° Floods 72
NE 29° Policing 70
▼1 30° Laws & Rulings 69

31° Irish Terrorism
68

32° Olympics
66

33° Cricket
66

34°
Care Services
65

35°
Arts Obituary
62

36°
Italy
61

37° Child Sex Abuse 61

38°
Israel & Palestine
60

39°
Liberal Democrats
59

40°
Sri Lanka
55

41° Injunctions 54

42°
Coalition
52

43° Norway Massacre
51

44°
Bahrain
48

45° African Drought 48

46°
Outbreaks
48

47°
Royal Family
47

48° Ivory Coast
47

49°
Strauss-Kahn Scandal
45

50°
Ireland
45

31st December


The year is over. In the final week there was no change in the Constructors' Championship, although the Arab Spring retook the Economy to become the biggest story of the year on 1402pts to the Economy's 1401. In the Drivers' Championship, the NHS leaped Afghanistan and the Riots to make a last-minute entry into the top 10, while Syria overtook Egypt for the honour of second most important story of the Arab Spring. Also pipped at the last moment was the International Economy, retaken by the Domestic Economy thanks to the Boxing Day sales.

We've extended the Drivers' Championship as far as the Top 50 this week to show some of the stories which have not quite made it for want of either position or staying power. So it is that the desperate affairs of the Coalition outplay the news-hungry bloodiness of the Norwegian Massacre, while the matrimonial activities of the Royal Family are worth only half the points of the plucky endeavours made in the world of Computing.

Libya was the biggest story of 2011, and unlike its rivals (who languished on half the sort of points it achieved) this really was a single story (Taxation, Domestic Economy etc are all rather amorphous by contrast, and the Phone Hacking scandal had unraveled from the Coulson Affair into the Leveson Inquiry by the end of the year).

Here's the usual pie-chart for the Constructors' share:



This compares with the previous quarterly charts as follows:


March

June

September

December

Team Justice's swing up the order in September has been well and truly put down, with Politics leapfrogging Eurasia. The same data presented in a different format looks like this:

Constructors' percentage share of total points by month:


Economics   Africa   Politics   Eurasia   Justice   Sport   Health   Disaster
Art   Terror   Environment   Technology   Diplomacy   America   Education


The greatest end-of-month share by a constructor was achieved by Africa in April, when the Arab Spring was in full flow. Environment had the lowest share: 0.56% in March.

We can also visualize this data like this:

Constructors' percentage share of total points by week:


(Arab Spring)   Economics   Africa   Politics   Eurasia   Justice   Sport   Health   Disaster
Art   Terror   Environment   Technology   Diplomacy   America   Education

An early start for Justice (thanks mainly to events in Bristol) soon petered out allowing Economics to briefly dominate the scene. And then Africa turns up (it begins above the Arab Spring curve thanks to other events in the continent, and ends below it as the Arab Spring spreads to the Middle East) and dominates the picture for the majority of the year. It's only in November that Economics regains its hold on the newsroom's imagination thanks to matters Euro.

Monthly performance of Constructors achieving over 100pts in one calendar month:


(Arab Spring)   Economics   Africa   Politics   Eurasia   Justice  
Disaster

In this graph, we see the total points per month for those constructors who at some point managed to rack up a monthly score in excess of 100pts. The lowest such constructor is Disaster which broke the century barrier only once, in March, when an earthquake hit Japan (the smaller peak in July was courtesy of the drought in Somalia, while Flooding in various parts of the world gave the January peak). Justice began with the Jo Yeates investigation, but this would be eclipsed by Injunction fever in May before the Riots provided the constructor's biggest tally in August. Eurasia first started to get meaty in April when Syria kicked off, and was helped to its highest point in June by the economic tribulations of Greece. These two strands have provided most of the supercontinent's activity for the rest of the year.

Politics began in good spirits with the resignation of Andy Coulson, then tailed off for a bit until the AV Referendum in May. July saw the constructor exceed 150pts when the Phone Hacking story really kicked off in the wake of the Dowler Trial (this has been a problematic story for our categories: Justice or Arts would be more appropriate constructors for the Phone Hacking story had not the origins of it been in Coulson's Downing Street role). An even bigger peak for Politics was the 191pts it scored in October when Liam Fox was found to have a friend.

Africa's story is a fairly obvious one, and we can trace it out alongside the line for the Arab Spring. In February we spent several days just staring at a square in Egypt, and then Libya started. By the middle of March we were at war, and by May we'd lost interest in the whole thing. There was a resurgence in coverage come August when the Libyan rebels started attacking Tripoli, and then things plateaued out again. Even Gaddafi's death in October was out-done by Liam Fox's kith.

Monthly performance of Arab Spring nations:


Tunisia               Egypt              Bahrain               Libya               Yemen               Syria

A monthly view of the six main Arab Spring participants gives a reasonable guide to how the revolutionary antics were reported. First on our radar was Algeria (not shown) whose protests got a mention towards the end of the first week of the year. This story was treated in economic terms: these were riots due to high food prices. It was a week later that the newsrooms finally picked up on what was going on in Tunisia, and then in another fortnight's time Al Jazeera's cameras happened to be in the right place to capture the protests in Egypt. Because of the happy coincidence of Tahrir Square and Al Jazeera's Egyptian office, we were treated to live rolling footage: the revolution was being televised. Unquestionably this was the primary reason why Egypt became the big story, bolstered in part by a sense that the journalists had been off the ball a touch for the Tunisian round. Twitter (the first resource of the press these days) was aflame, and audience figures for Al Jazeera English exploded. This was incendiary stuff! And then there was a military coup and it was all over with a squirty squish. But wait... rumours of protests in Libya, and then Bahrain took the headlines as we approached the third weekend of February. No live rolling pictures of that though, and soon the weekend was over and the Bahranis were back at work. The rebels in Libya had other ideas, though. No work for them. Cue nine days of Libya as top story.

As we entered March, we had three days of respite from Libya as top story, but it was a cosmetic choice rather than one born of genuine news hierarchy, and Libya was soon back on top again. A failed SBS mission in Libya during the first weekend of March caused some embarrassment to the UK, and conspiracy theorists might find convenience in the Prince Andrew scandal that pushed the story down the following day, but the truth is that Libya was getting tiresome. Gaddafi may have had reason to consider the timing of the Japanese earthquake fortunate, but rather than bury the Libyan story, it simply gave it opportunity to rest a little and gain some momentum. After a week of looking at a melting nuclear reactor, something must have clicked at NATO: some race memory of the cold war. Cue intervention: Libya's news fate was well and truly sealed.

Buoyed by this declaration of war in aid of the insurgency, the people of Yemen decided to give this whole Arab Spring thing a shot too (shot being the operative word). Their president agreed to stand down by the end of the year, and our secondary attention shifted to Syria. Syria did not pick its moment well. Libya, Japan, an anti-cuts protest, a double murder, and the inquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests last year, all served to distract from the protest in Syria, and what is more, there was no rolling footage to show.

As April began, there seems to have been an editorial decision to rest the Libyan story. Having spent five days as top story at the end of March, it was now third billing, then fourth, then fifth. A car bomb in Omagh cemented this editorial policy. However, by the middle of the month, the rebels had reached Misrata. Still, things were taking their time there, and attention shifted once again to Syria which was given a week in C4N's limelight (a conscious editorial decision designed to capture that audience unconcerned with the preparations for the Royal Wedding: the same sort of scheduling mentality that puts niche films out at the same time as blockbusters).

By May, the whole Arab Spring thing was getting tiresome, so journalists had Osama Bin Laden killed, held an AV Referendum and Lib Dem bloodbath, got cornered in a hotel room by the head of the IMF, and then took out an injunction. After a month away, June was a time to catch up on our old friends the Arabs. The Yemenis had injured their president, NATO were still attacking Libya, and Syria was still Syria. Refugees fleeing to Turkey helped score some points but by half way through the month we were fed up with it all again. The war journalists went on holiday and we were left with the Dowler Inquiry and the subsequent phone-hacking furore. As a consequence of all this, the Arab Spring was largely forgotten in July.

It bounced back with a vengeance in August, though, as the Libyan rebels closed in on Tripoli and victory. September's coverage was about the mopping up and the back-patting. October's was about the death of Gaddafi. And with that, the biggest story of the Arab Spring (and the biggest story of the year) was effectively over.

After a fortnight off the subject, eyes inevitably began to flick back to Syria. But they were weary eyes. Towards the end of November disquiet began to show itself in Egypt again and the press let out a stifled yawn and a "here we go again". There was no rolling coverage from Al Jazeera this time. And so we slipped quietly into December: the oppression in Syria occasionally being of sufficient magnitude to be worthy of another resigned mention and the odd top billing. Somebody should tell them we asked for an Arab Spring, not an Arab Year. What was good enough for 1848 and 1968 (briefly) ought to be good enough for the Arabs!

Monthly performance of Top Five drivers:


Libya          Government Spending & Taxation          Phone Hacking
          Domestic Economy          International Economy

Here are the top five stories of the year. We've already covered Libya in some detail, so need to go over all that again. There in the middle is the big spike of Phone Hacking brought about by the moral indignation that a journalist may have deleted messages on Milly Dowler's phone (an allegation that was, it turns out, probably unfounded, but which none-the-less led to the closure of the News of the World). The two previous peaks on this line relate to the resignation of Andy Coulson in January, and the arrests, allegations and apologies of April. The Leveson Inquiry (an opportunity for media naval-gazing if nothing else) makes up the latest peak in November.

Phone Hacking was something of a side-show for the silly-season. The real opposition to the Arab Spring as far as news dominance goes was, of course, the Economy. So it is that three of the top five drivers are Economic stories. Government Spending & Taxation is the lead driver of the three (and the winner of our experimental analysis last year). It takes in the budget, tax cuts, and every hair-brained vote-grabbing scheme the government might try to throw money at during the year, so it's inevitably onto a mine of points. Anything George Osborne touches turns purple on the above graph. Spending Cuts and the "Big Society" were behind the biggest peak in February, before things plateaued off a bit in light of events abroad. Pensions entered the agenda in June, followed by a range of cuts in July, then things tailed off again for the summer recess, with no stories at all in September. The "Future Jobs Fund" led an array of exchequered stories in November when everyone had come back to school, bringing us roughly up to date.

Then there's the wider Economy, both home and abroad. These two categories are tempered to an extent by other drivers lower down the order (Banking & Markets, Greece, Italy etc.), but still did well enough to make the top five. The domestic situation had our interest for the first six months, while International crises were limited strictly to the problems besetting single nations. But then the problems in Greece began to spread and suddenly we had The Euro Crisis. Domestic affairs kept chipping in, reaching their peak in November with Osborne admitting the economy was "off course", but this was nothing compared to the coverage Europe was getting. The high-point for International Economics came in December with Cameron exercising his Reform Treaty "veto" (a curious choice of wording that passed unquestioned by the media).


The mad zig-zag to our right here gives the points path of a selection of stories on a daily basis. The selected stories each managed to sustain top billing over a pair of consecutive days. A story about VAT was the first such example, bettered later by Floods and the revolutionary antics in Tunisia. The yellow line that appears in January and rises to the 9pt mark for a particularly prolonged stint in February is Egypt. An amount of noise is inevitable in such a graph, especially when there is no definite lead story. But when a topic does rise to the fore it often wipes out longer-running stories: so it is that Egypt comes to hog the headlines in early February, and Libya likewise in early March. Japan and Syria come to play in late March and then the stories begin to mount up again. By May, when Libya's starting to get tedious, there's a bit of a free-for-all at the top of the headlines, and then at the start of July there's a particularly impressive wipe-out as Phone Hacking becomes the only story around.

Here's a breakdown of the other stories around during Phone Hacking's turn at the top:

    19pts   South Sudan
    18pts   Afghanistan
   
18pts   Chinook Crash Review
    18pts   The Arts (inc. Manchester Festival)
    16pts   Golf (Open)
    14pts   Domestic Economy (inc. Bombardier)
   
11pts   African Drought
   
10pts   Government Spending
    10pts   Care Services
   
9pts     General Disasters
   
9pts     General Technology
   
8pts     Environment
    7pts     Football
   
7pts     Formula 1 (British GP)
    7pts     Medical Breakthroughs
   
6pts     International Economy
    6pts     Stepping Hill Deaths
    4pts     Universities
   
4pts     Lottery
    3pts     Policing
   
3pts     Legal Policy
    2pts     Athletics
   
1pt       Boxing

There's some big stories here, but most of them failed to have any sustained attention as a lead headline. The Stepping Hill story, for instance, managed only one top-billing, which in hindsight may prove to have been a wise decision. The African Drought (later, more specifically, the Somalian Famine) was one of the more criminally ignored story of the year, in part owing to the politics of Somalia, though perhaps also to the fact the story slow-burnt into life during a period of massive media naval-gazing. Amy Winehouse and a prick in Norway added to the distraction, and any pretense to interest was completely written off once the Riots hit. Three lowly placed call-backs in September paid lip-service to the dying and the dead, but by then we were well into Conference Season so had far more important things to worry about.

Conference Season led immediately to the first big Tory scalping as Liam Fox was teased aside. Then it was time for some previous headlines to give us an update. The only new subjects on our zig-zag after this point are the M5 Crash on Bonfire Night, and Italy's economic woes that led to Berlusconi's resignation in November. The rest was just catch-up, most of the catching up being courtesy of the International Economy.

The map has changed in 2011: there's a new country in Africa, and a couple of old bogey-men are no-longer on their thrones. Libya has a new flag, and various other Arab nations have secured some sort of change too, although quite how much change remains to be seen. The parallels with 1848 are there to be pointed at in a knowing manner. Yet for all the interest in this Arab Spring, it was, as even Bill Clinton might've predicted, the Economy that ultimately dominated our news. And unless the Mayans were onto something, it will be the Economy that dominates 2012 too. The bread and circuses of Olympic games and pariah states may offer some depressing respite, but there will be no escaping the inconvenience of having no money. If this were a game of Monopoly, China would have hotels on the pinks and oranges, and we'd be looking to shake two fives or two sixes to get out of jail. The only other option would be kicking the board away in a tizz, so if you're going to have a bet against the world ending this year, make sure the bookies consider that compelling simile before they set their odds.

With that cheery thought we spurt out our champagne and say goodbye to Racing News. It was interesting at times, but probably not interesting enough. While we try to come up with something better, here's some coronal mass ejections from Wikipedia to get you familiar with the Wrath of God:



Have a pleasant 2012.
Ivan & Aidan.



23rd December


With a week to go, the Economy has at last overtaken the Arab Spring as the big story of the year. Meanwhile Eurasia captures 4th place in the constructors' from Team Justice. In the drivers' championship, last week's changes are for the most part reversed: Football retakes Syria for 7th place, and the Riots regain 11th from the NHS. Tunisia, the Arab Spring's spring, hutches up slightly to gain parity with Liam Fox and Adam Werritty; the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi getting a (year late) second-place billing.

On that festive note, have a very merry Christmas.


16th December


Two weeks pass and with only two weeks remaining in the project, Racing Economics are now just eleven points shy of the total points scored by the Arab Spring. The economic situation may yet be the story of the year. Only one change in position in the constructors' championship: Environment leapfrogging Technology thanks to the climate talks in Durban and a stormy night in Scotland. The Higgs' Boson couldn't match up to the weather.

This weather is the main cause of the impressive ten point rise of Natural Environment in the drivers' chart. The economic drivers are the main movers, however. Employment & Migration gains three places to 25th, while that pesky Eurozone crisis has allowed the International Economy to overtake the Domestic Economy and take 4th place. Can it push Phone Hacking off the podium in the remaining fortnight?


2nd December


The predictions of last week's column come to pass, as Trade Disputes overtakes the Tory Party, Computing and Greece to sit alongside Political Protests in the top-half of the Drivers' table. The other mover is the International Economy which overtakes Syria and Football in its bid for a top five position.

In the Constructors' championship, the closely pegged teams continue to trade places: Diplomacy
edges past America, Arts overtake Terror, and Health leapfrogs Disaster, each holding their positions by a solitary point's advantage. A greater margin exists between the top two rivals, as Economics finally supplants Africa to take the lead in the championship with only a month to go.


25th November

The movement near the top of the Drivers' chart last week has been neatly reversed this week, as Egypt retakes Syria as second-biggest news story in the Arab Spring (which collectively has accounted for a massive 1338pts). Meanwhile, as the Tories seek to deform public sector pensions, Trade Disputes draws level with the Conservative Party and can be expected to climb another two or three places next week to meet its kindred spirit: Political Protests.

In the Constructors' chart there is no movement this week, though Health is lining up to overtake Disaster, and
Arts stands a reasonable chance of defeating Terror. At the top, Economics has crept 3pts closer to Africa, and only an Arab Autumn can realistically prevent the triumph of capitalism.



18th November


The Economy was the biggest story this week, again, while Politics' second place allowed it to break the 1000pt mark. No movement in the Constructors' chart, but in the Drivers' championship Syria is now a bigger story than Egypt, and perhaps more seriously, the International Economy has drawn level with Football. The rest of the top 30 are unmoved. Bubbling under after a strong performance this week is Italy on 61pts.


11th November


In recognition of the fact that we are nearing the end of the season, the Drivers' Championship has been extended to thirty places. We've not made any effort to show movement in the bottom half of the table, but up in the top half it's been a busy fortnight: Syria gains a place at the expense of Football, and the International Economy has a particularly strong time of it, gaining three places (and 37pts). Economics and Politics have been the big constructors of recent weeks, along with Eurasia, thanks in no small part to 17th placed driver: Greece. With exactly fifty days to go until the end of the year, there are potentially 450pts up for grabs for the drivers, meaning that Government Spending & Taxation would need to be the lead story from now until the New Year if it is to have any chance of defeating Libya as this year's champion. But Racing Economics is now the bookies' favourite for the Constructors' trophy.


28th October

Again not a great deal of movement. The Turkey Earthquake sneaks Scuderia Disaster marginally ahead of GP Health in the Constructors', while the International Economy rises two places in the Drivers' Championship thanks to the Eurozone Crisis. Matters Economic collected the most points this week.


21st October

No change in the top 15 of the Drivers' Championship this week. Liam Fox remained the biggest story, bringing him into the top 20. Libya and the 'Occupy' Protests occupied second and third places. Two of those stories contributed to Politics F1's reclamation of third place in the Constructors' Championship, which they now hold by a single point from Team Justice.



14th October

This week Politics F1 consolidated its 4th place in style, while Team America and Diplomacy GP swapped places again. Likewise, in the Drivers' Championship, Interntational Economy and Computing continued their little dance. Where did Politics F1's fifty-nine bolstering points come from? Well forty-five of them were courtesy of Liam Fox (lying 30th in the Drivers' chart). Taken as a while block, Political Scandal has 427pts, enough to put it in second place were its major contributor, Phone Hacking, not in third.


7th October

A bit more movement as we enter the final quarter. The Tory Party Conference was understandably the most reported of the conferences, and helped the party to what will inevitably be a brief moment of fame in the Drivers' Championship. The death of a phoney hippy helped Computing overtake the International Economy: perhaps surprising given the current state of the latter. The Riots have begun to slide down the charts, and Football has retaken Syria in our interests. Even the Constructors' Championship has movement this week: The American Economy has nudged Team America past Diplomacy GP, while conference season, and Liam Fox's best man, have helped Politics F1 up into 4th again.


30th September

Another quarter passes, and the International Economy enters the picture. Were one to add to its total the points given to Greece and the US Economy, this driver would be in 5th place on 208 points. But we haven't done this. It may not need the leg-up. Were things to develop, in the next quarter, to a full scale battle for supremacy between the Arab Spring and the Global Economic Death, we might have to bring all the forces to bear (Arab Spring stories currently account for 1191 points (18% of all points allocated)).

A look at the pie-chart for the constructors' share of the points, it can be seen that little has changed since June (beyond a couple of swapped places). But with three months left to go, it could still be anybody's season.

End of September 2011


End of March 2011
End of June 2011



23rd September

Welcome back. We've had a lovely summer. What happened while we were away? Well, three days after our last post (July 1st) the news broke that a dead schoolgirl's telephone had been hacked into by a journalist, and messages had been deleted. Suddenly the Phone Hacking story, which had been close to dropping out of the top 15, was back in the news again. It spent 16 consecutive days at the top of the billing: a feat akin to that Bryan Adams song. Not even Libya has managed that sort of staying power. It took famine in Somalia to bring C4N back down to Earth.

Newspapers briefly got their own back for the death of the News of the World by conducting a character assassination on a nurse from Stepping Hill hospital where several people had died. This was the year's second high-profile example of the presumption of guilt backfiring when the accused is released without charge.

Fortunately for the press, some coordinated atrocities in Norway acted as a distraction from their cock-up, while the death of Amy Winehouse wrapped up a pretty intense weekend as news goes. Then came a belated "silly season": a 'dead' South African waking up in a morgue, Putin bending a frying-pan, futurologists predicting people will regularly live to be 100, and other such crap, sprinkled atop further news from Syria and Libya, and tales of economic doom.

Then, on a warm Saturday night at the start of August, while police were keeping out of the way as a vigil took place to protest an unpopular shooting they had committed, some dickhead set fire to an empty police car. A few hours later, the press were stood in the road, watching a lot of kids watching some police watching a burning bus. Collectively, the masses came to the realization that this milling about might as well become a full-on riot, and so it came to pass. A softly-softly police response seemed to mark open-season on black goods, and so the rioting spread: first across London, and then across the country. Twitter was in its element, and thousands discovered the wonders of Sikh community television. Then some people got killed in Birmingham and the excitement died down again. The press coverage lasted somewhat longer than the riots: it was still top story a fortnight later.

At that point, our old friend Libya started to get interesting again, as Tripoli began to fall to the Rebels. This led us to the brink of September, which opened with a tale of gypsies and planning regulations that is still rumbling on (as it has been doing on a local level for 10 years). September's been a bit of a mixed bag: an over-enthusiasm for Athletics on account of C4's coverage, the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Centre Attacks, and last week's Mining Disaster acting as tentpegs for the usual mush. The annual staple of Conference Season is just starting to kick in, and the World Economic Crisis is beginning to look more and more depressing with each passing day. Tune in next week to see what state things are in at the ¾ mark.

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