I'm trying to locate a word or phrase which describes this situation: when a relatively unusual news item is reported and then, in the following days, suddenly other examples of the same thing are reported.

It tends to happen with stories like dog attacks. What brought it to my mind this time was the execution of Cecil the lion being followed by reports (apparently untrue) of the death of Jericho the lion. A second lion story was covered because of the huge interest in the first story.

The word or phrase I'm looking for is likely to be of recent origin.

A similar concept is "frequency illusion", where the mind is biased to observe patterns where none exists - for example, you see a blue car and suddenly you keep noticing blue cars and you think that blue cars are much more common than they really are.

  • The "frequency illusion" you describe is frequently called the "Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon". It's one of the internet's favorite terms. Aug 2, 2015 at 23:29
  • @DougWarren Thank you! As soon as I read your post, I recalled it. Please post as answer so I can accept it. I am also upvoting the other helpful answers below.
    – ThomasDoe
    Aug 4, 2015 at 20:49

3 Answers 3


I think your examples are of two different things: the blue car example demonstrates "salience,":

Def. Salient

  1. Prominent or conspicuous (Dictionary.com)

If you buy a blue car, suddenly you notice them everywhere, because the color is prominent in your mind.

The news story example is something different, however. They run the same stories because they're "copycats," or "following the leader"; in the case of local tv stations, they all get the same news feed, as this Mother Jones story explains (Mother Jones, 4/4/14). For the bigger networks, they don't want to be left out of covering a particular story, whether it be the latest weather disaster or the last thing out of Donald Trump's mouth.


Are you talking about the journalistic phenomenon or the fact that things tend to happen at the same time?

Journalists jump on the bandwagon

Events coincide through synchronicity


The "frequency illusion" you describe is frequently called the "Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon".

The origins of this name are discussed in an article at http://www.damninteresting.com/the-baader-meinhof-phenomenon/. In this article, the author presents this theory:

Independent reports indicate that the name 'Baader-Meinhof phenomenon' was coined on a discussion thread on the St. Paul Pioneer Press in ~1995. Participants were discussing the sensation, and decrying the lack of a term for it, so someone asserted naming rights and called it 'Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon' presumably based on their own experience hearing that moniker twice in close temporal proximity.

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