Tuesday, March 8, 2011

An Interesting Milestone

Since my print copy of the San Francisco Chronicle almost seems as if it gets a bit thinner every day, I have developed an interest in who decides what counts as important news.  For example, the following item showed up on the BBC News Web site with a time stamp of 2:49 AM Eastern time this morning (which is 11:49 PM yesterday here in San Francisco):

Sandwich group Subway has overtaken McDonald's as the world's largest restaurant chain, the company has said.

Subway had 33,749 sites across the globe at the end of last year, compared with 32,737 for McDonald's.

Is this news?  For those of us who see “fries with that” as one of the factors in the generally unhealthy trends in American eating, it is nice to see that a place that does not serve fries at all is advancing.  You can, of course, get yourself an unhealthy meal at Subway;  but your options are such that your health is more likely to benefit from a visit to Subway than from one to McDonalds’s.  Now that one of those Subway sites is within two blocks of the front door of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, I personally appreciate the fact that, when I have to “eat and run,” I can at least eat something that is good for me.

However, where the news question is concerned, I decided to check the Business Report section of today’s Chronicle (most of which is now “fed” with Bloomberg content).  I expected to find something, even if only a statement-in-passing requiring little more than a column inch;  but there was not a peep.  This sent me over to see what was happening on the Bloomberg site.  All I could find one of those top-stories mini-videos, lasting less than 90 seconds, in which this item was included in the summary.  (The time stamp for this “micro-news,” by the way was almost exactly three hours later than the one on the BBC Web page.)  On the other hand there was no mention of the item in the list of news stories about McDonald’s, the most recent of which involved increased sales at McDonald’s outlets and a drop in their share price.  These are not enough data points for any serious inferential reasoning, but it may be worth asking whether or not providing consumers with options for healthy eating is just not part of what Bloomberg recognizes as relevant business and financial news.

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