Saturday, 19 January 2013

Rolling News. Or The Obviouses. Or Just Shut Up Already.

Be a discerning news consumer, fgs

Back in the olden days...

..when we had three channels, no recording devices and no remote controls, television watching was a serious business.  You had to plan what you were going to watch, then make sure you paid attention to it, because there was no going back and seeing it again.  There was a specific slot for children's television, another for family viewing and yet another for being informed about the important happenings of the day (known as "The News").  And television had a closedown - it wasn't on all night (astonishing though that may seem now!).

Whilst the children's television has been shifted onto whole dedicated channels since the explosion of multichannel telly and the rest of it is now an all-night festival of televisual feasting, the one thing that hasn't changed is "The News" - well, it's still called that, anyway.

But has it changed?

Well, yes, I think so.  And is that change better?  Well, no, I don't think so.  Why?  I'll explain.

When you had your news diet in the limited sort of six o'clock, nine o'clock and ten o'clock varieties, as well as newspapers (for which you parted with actual hard-earned cash) and the radio (which was the newsiest thing out), you took consuming it seriously and expected the providers to treat it in a similarly solemn fashion.  News understood that the word "new" needed to be the basis of all they conveyed.

And then - and I honestly believe you can pinpoint the downfall of news as a serious thing to this one event - Angela Rippon proved that newsreaders had legs on Morecambe & Wise.

After that, they were all at it.  Children in Need became an excuse for newsreaders to prove that they were fun too.  Honest.

But then news started to creep into every moment of every day (and this is by no means a history lesson, so don't come crying to me if I get stuff in the wrong order!) and soon it was inescapable.  From free papers on the Tube to talk radio stations endlessly churning out comment on the day's stories (often fronted by ex-tabloid journos, who are well known for thoughtful and evidence based journalism with nary a shock tactic in sight) - and one of the most pointless and soul-destroying things, rolling news on dedicated news channels.

Never has this been so patently obvious as with the recent helicopter crash in London.  Before I go on, I think we can all agree that this was a terrible thing to happen - so please don't think I am being in any way flippant or disrespectful to the two who died (I'm not) - but it highlighted very neatly the way rolling news is so useless (and, in fact, trivialises the very thing upon which it reports), thus:

- "Can you describe what you saw?"
- "Yes, a helicopter crashed."
- "What did it look like?"
- "A...helicopter crashing?"

Why, thank you, "The News" for this insight.

Continuing, we had pearls such as (and I may paraphrase here, but only slightly):

- "What did it sound like?"
- "A loud bang."

Really?  A helicopter crashing makes a loud bang?  You think?!  Not like an angel playing a harp or fairies sprinkling glitter?  FFS, stop trivialising, just stop talking!  Stop the endless churning banging on, the incessant need to fill 24 hours' worth of airwaves every fucking day with total bullshit news coverage, repeated ad nauseum, so that people can feel "fully informed" when, actually, they're just being told things they already know over and over and over again by people with serious voices.  It's not news.  It's "obviouses".

And then there is the wheeling out of experts who say, when asked what they think happened, "Well, we just don't know.  Anything could have happened.  There'll be an investigation and the results of that will be made public and then we'll be able to comment more fully."  But still they probe.  "But in your experience, what do you think happened?" - and just once, wouldn't it be nice if one of them said, "I haven't got a fucking clue and this is such a waste of time. Now piss off!"? But they don't, because they want to be on telly.  The wankers.

And, of course, we take a trip, as we always do, to Spurious Analogy Land, which is populated by journalists from rolling news.  They say things like, "It was like a war zone".  No, it was like a helicopter had crashed.  That's it.  We can imagine that well enough, thanks to the footage of the aftermath, the fire, the crane it hit, the fire engines and other emergency services on the ground - but it doesn't look like a war zone.  Just ask people who live in one.  There aren't any tanks, for instance.  Or napalm.  And there are considerably more branches of Tesco Metro.

But, mostly, just shut up.  Stop skewing the events of the day by being there, with your microphone and your lunatic wide-eyed questioning of members of the public.  Just let things happen, then report on them in strictly-timed limited slots - perhaps six, nine and ten o'clock and I'll let you do a breakfast round-up of things that happened overnight.  OK?

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