Friday, 22 August 2014

Silly Season

This week, Account Manager Adele Baxby takes over Clare's blog with a variety of eccentricities that's come off the press recently.

Although it’s easy to forget with the recent chilly spells, we are still in the throes of summer. And what does summer mean? 
Well, for many it means holidays and the promise of a quiet spell before September and the inevitable new-stationery-back-to-school time of year, making that final push before Christmas.
For the press this period means one thing - "silly season" – a time when the more off-the-wall, salacious or quite frankly wacky news stories get a little more column inches than normal. 
In the spirit of this, I thought I’d take my time at the helm of Clare’s blog to steer through the origins of silly season and celebrate the most ridiculous stories it has produced. 
It may seem like a modern phenomenon but did you know that the term "silly season" was coined in 1861? In 2012 the BBC reported on a university lecturer’s research into the origin of silly season – his findings being that the rise of these more frivolous stories also coincided with the newspaper tax being abolished. This meant the masses could afford to read the paper – and these silly sensations helped them to shift papers.   
It’s not just the UK which has a silly season either – the US calls it the (slightly less jolly-sounding) slow news season and our friends down under see their silly season coincide not just with their summer, but Christmas too. 
So far this summer we have seen the Ice Bucket Challenge take up more and more column inches, especially as an increasing number of celebrities get involved, challenging more famous faces to strip off, douse themselves in freezing cold water (while being filmed of course) and raise money for the ALS association. Even George Bush has got involved
We’ve also seen a monkey’s selfie garnering a lot of media attention - helped in part by the accompanying hilarious monkey close-up (The Guardian’s Tim Dowling noted the key elements of a silly season story include “an oversized picture of a cute or disabled animal; an amusing if implausible headline; a weasel-worded sentence that restates the headline in more cautious terms…”). Of course this story actually underlined an interesting legal issue around copyright

The Independent has a great round-up of some of the classic silly season stories, including:
When Benson the carp tragically passed away in 2009, the world’s media mourned his loss. The Times ran the story on the front page and papers across the world reported on the shady circumstances around his death.
In 2000 the Daily Mail ran a double page spread on crop circles – with a portion of the story using a Siamese cat as a credible source for the circles’ origins. 
And finally, a personal favourite, in 2005 The Sun reported that by joining up a star constellation, astronomers had found not just actor Richard Wilson’s face – but specifically, that of his One Foot in the Grave character Victor Meldrew
Some have mourned that silly season is getting less silly – of course when there is important news to report the papers aren’t going to favour a fortune-telling pooch – but as i editor Oliver Duff says, silly season can offer some light relief – which we could all do with in 2014. 
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed a slight deviation down the path of all things silly –‘tis the season after all. We promise normal service will resume next time, when Clare returns from her break!

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