Posted by: Paul | March 2, 2010

Breaking News…Nothing Is Happening

Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe began it’s timely re-run on BBC2 last night, and it reminded me of a subject I was intending to post on at the time but got sidetracked by other things.

One of the things I hate about the news – and Sky News is particularly guilty of this – is on-the-spot reporters reporting from a location where there is clearly nothing happening. They do this all the time on rolling news channels, on the offchance that something might actually happen and they weren’t there to bring you minute-by-minute coverage of it. So instead they end up bringing you minute-by-minute coverage of absolutely nothing.

I’ve just done an experiment to prove that this happens all the time. I’ve switched on Sky News to see what’s going on in the world. One of the big stories today is that of a consortium of city investors calling themselves, quite amusingly, The Red Knights, announcing that they are considering – CONSIDERING, no less – what it might take to buy the Glazers out. It will take more than a billion pounds. They haven’t said whether they will or won’t try to raise this money. They haven’t contacted the Glazers. That’s clearly all there is to it – a 2 minute item, if that, in the headlines, move on. But hey presto, there’s a reporter at the gates of Old Trafford where there is CLEARLY NOTHING HAPPENING. They’re standing there in the cold talking about how there is CLEARLY NOTHING HAPPENING.

This is just one thing selected at random. If I turn on the BBC News Channel it’s happening there too – coincidentally another football story with Portsmouth in court today, there’s a reporter outside the High Court where there is CLEARLY NOTHING HAPPENING.

This drives me mad. You’ve nothing to say! You’re wasting money and airtime! You’re filling empty space with more nothing, and pretending it’s significant! Get on with some proper investigative journalism, stories that require research and time and have an outcome, and stop trying to make news up where there isn’t any! Or would that require spending money on training your people as journalists, rather than just talk-monkeys?

I think it’s become quite a significant problem in recent years, the fact that news programming now drives the news agenda, creating news as it reports it. This is twisting the way facts are presented and can make coverage misleading or introduce bias. Charlie Brooker is spot on in his deconstruction of how things are reported now – it’s formulaic, dull, dumbed down and misleading, and makes me very angry indeed. Check this out!

And on the subject of “breaking” news, the problem affecting older models of PS3 has now been resolved. Too late for Hitler though, which made me laugh a lot.


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