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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Silly Season Around the World

Every Summer on this side of the Atlantic the main houses of Parliament take extended holidays and the press endures what is known as silly season. This period is particularly rough from mid-August to September in Britain where newspaper readership drops off and events like Prime Ministers Question of course cannot take place. To counteract this trend often newspapers print attention grabbing headlines and are forced to dramatize relatively insignificant events on the world stage in order to try to grab readers.

However, the British Isles are not the only nations to suffer from this period of  informative drought, although the times and dates may change the premise is the same.  In Germany he period is known as Sommerloch (Summer hole) and in French it is la morte-saison (the dead season). The Swedish have the nyhetstorka.

For some reason many nations prefer to refer to the period as the cucumber season or cucumber time. The Czechs, Hungarians, Estonians, Israelis and Polish all use this expression. In the US the term is often used to refer to the period between seasons in major sports like American football.

While broadsheet newspapers struggle to find serious news to grace the front pages, the tabloids who may often be prone to sensational headlines, celebrity gossip and shock tactics seem to have an easier time of it. Britain's most read newspaper, a tabloid, The Sun has run some quite fascinating headlines in the past. On its front page a few years ago it ran a story that the face of a popular television personality had been spotted in the stars. While the resemblance was uncanny, did it really deserve the front page of a national newspaper? I'll leave that one up to you.

Another consequence of the silly season is the political leverage it affords politicians to get their name out there. Germany's current king of Sommerloch as christened by Stern Magazine is the economic minister from the junior coalition partner in Angela Merkel's Government Rainer Bruederle. He has been featured all over German media in almost daily media interviews arguing on issues such as pensions, immigration reform and criticising Merkel's party for not having enough enthusiasm for reforms. He has confused many pensioners with his hypocritical policies and no doubt angered those within Merkel's Christian democrats.

While the long term effects of the Silly Season have yet to be seen. Here's hoping that the period fizzles out in a couple of weeks like one of its shallow forgettable (albeit amusing) stories.

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