Thresholds and boiling points

By Lune van der Meulen

What’s news and what isn’t? Is it news when a dog bites a mailman? Not really. And what if the dog belonged to president Trump? That would already be more newsworthy. But now; what if the mailman bit the dog of president Trump? Well, that would definitely become a news story.

The degree of newsworthiness depends on certain conditions. Galtung and Ruge (1965) made an overview of factors that are of influence on the newsworthiness of certain events. Next to unexpectedness and the reference to elite people, they also state that events “have to pass a threshold, before being recorded at all” (Galtung & Ruge, 1965, pp. 66). This factor can be clearly demonstrated by a current news event: the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.

The Muslim minority Rohingya has been persecuted for many years by Myanmar’s so-called security forces, and even the UN stated Myanmar’s army might have committed ethnic cleansing.

This story, however, has only recently become an actual news story. Only since violence was used by a part of the Rohingya at the end of August, media started to cover.

The Rohingya attacked the armed police of Myanmar with handmade weapons, this wasn’t just a regular attack. According to Laetitia van den Assum, it’s a true revolt because their boiling point has been reached.

It’s unfortunate that even 52 years after the article by Galtung and Ruge appeared, thresholds still have to be passed, and apparently, boiling points have to be reached in order to become relevant to the media.


  • Galtung, Johan and Mari Holmboe Ruge. “The Structure of Foreign News” Journal of Peace Research 2.1 (1965): 64-91. Print.


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