It has become a clich? to begin editorials by saying no news is good news. But that does not make it any less true. When daily newspapers lead with news of a minister giving an innocuous speech somewhere about the importance of democracy for development you know "nothing happened". No disasters, no massacres, no abductions, no major accidents.
And that is the problem with the news business: it is incapable of reporting the ordinary, the everyday. News by definition has to be negative, it has to be nearby, and it has to happen suddenly. A tanker truck that reaches its destination safe and sound is not news, it is the one that falls into the Marsyangdi that makes it.
UNICEF's former director, Jim Grant, used to talk about the silent emergency that stalks our land. Some 500 children die every day of causes that are preventable, but that is not news. Now, suppose those 500 children were travelling in two jets that crashed simultaneously. Would that be news? Yes, because it fulfils the main criteria of news: a sudden, spectacular disaster. Nepali children are dying quietly, slowly, one by one, in homes throughout the country. The grief of their parents is private, isolated and scattered. It is not a loud emergency like a landslide that buries a village. And yet the reasons many of them are dying-criminal neglect, corruption and inequality in the delivery of the services that are supposed to save their lives-should make banner headlines everyday. But they don't.
Last year this time, policemen were being butchered every other week. We in the media couldn't keep up with the carnage, and our reporting made people numb. It's like slowly increasing the intake of poison until you can take a lethal dose without dying. We got so used to the bad news, that 70 people slaughtered overnight didn't shock us anymore. Human beings have this capability of being inured to bad news.
And they get used to good news as well. This year, we have got used to the ceasefire, we have stopped noticing that there are no front page pictures of widows sobbing over husbands blown apart by pressure cooker bombs in some remote and forgotten police post. The media is incapable of reporting an outbreak of peace, so the public takes peace for granted.
May we live in uninteresting times. This Tihar, we wish you no news.