I liked this post from Dan Reeves.

Remember, if it’s in the news don’t worry about it. The very definition of news is “something that almost never happens.” When something is so common that it’s no longer news — car crashes, domestic violence — that’s when you should worry about it.

The truth of that[1] hit home recently when I saw a news feature on the abduction of a four-year-old girl from her front yard in Missouri. Candlelight vigils, nation-wide amber alert, police blockades where every single car was stopped and questioned, FBI agents swarming the house. I think the expected reaction from parents is “oh my god, I need to be so vigilant, even in my own front yard!” My reaction was the opposite: Wow, this sort of thing really does essentially never happen. Let the kids run free!

While I generally have similar reactions, it is easy to take this too far. The weather is the prime counter-example. Valuable minutes of every nightly newscast in Southern California are devoted to repeating the same weather-mantra “Late Night and Early Morning Low Clouds and Fog” which indeed happens every single day.

Also, your interpretation of news depends on your implicit model of competition between news sources. A perfectly plausible model would be consistent with abductions happening every day but being reported only once in a while because we have a taste for variety in our stories of tragedy.