Not that I have any, it’s just I’ve been considering the news reporting recently. There are two different types of news available these days; for want of a better way of categorising them, there is the news (and comment) that people are paid to report, and the news (and comment) that people devise for free.
I’ve been particularly struck by the Malaysian plane story recently. Not really the story in itself, but the unblinking amorality of the news surrounding it. The heartless camera lenses surrounding grieving relatives, in one case a woman collapsing on the floor in sobs of tears, not simply because she was worried about her relatives, but because she was literally hemmed in by flashing lenses pointing at her, she could not find a way past, try as she might, because every news channel in the world needed their shot of her.
I heard reporters saying that “the world’s press were growing impatient” at the lack of news, as though that was actually a thing that mattered. I heard them talk about how the narrative was painted (and yes, they did use that mixed metaphor) as they were bored of lack of information, as though their deadlines and 24hr channels were more important than the relatives being given accurate information.
But more than the specifics of that one story, it is the general tone of the “paid” news. It’s all bad news. On the BBC news website just now, the headlines are:
“Paul Flowers – I have Sinned”
Russia – acting out of weakness
China families vent fury
1 in 10 UK children “neglected”.
Etc. Now all of these stories are important, (with the exception of the Rev. Flowers one, which is pure rubber-necking someone else’s tragedy) but is there no good news which counts as important?
But when one compares this with the online news via social media etc, the top “headlines” I receive are:
1) Cancer research has raised the £8m it needs to undergo clinical trials for a new drug through social media.
2) Discussion points about Scottish Independence.
3) Awareness raising about the homelessness situation in Britain
4) Story about rescuers in the landslip in Washington State
The significant difference is not really in the subject matter, although that is certainly different – it is in the tone. All of the stories from social media are hopeful, optimistic stories, about heroic things being done in difficult situations, about how individuals can help, rather than how powerless we are.
We need both, of course, but I’m hoping some of the latter will rub off on the former – and that maybe we don’t need to invade people’s private tragedies to get stories, because news execs can open themselves to the idea that there is public heroism to acknowledge as well, even in heart-wrenching situations.