09 May 2007

I felt the news today, oh boy...

Why do you watch the news? To keep informed of current affairs? How very old-fashioned. Today it's not enough to "read all about it" - you have to feel it too.

Take the desperate story of the abduction of a British girl from a Portuguese holiday resort. It is revealing about the extent to which we, in the UK, accept media demands to be made the focus of all investigations, like a gluttonous child in its insatiable demand for fresh material. There can never be too many shots of distraught parents, photofits of suspects or pictures of the victim. Not for prurient reasons, you understand, but in the name of a public service, armed with their ever-present asinine question: how do you feel?

When such a story breaks in the UK, local police believe the more information that is released, the higher the chances of finding the child alive. The fact that this is also serves the agenda of the British press doesn't come into it. So when the Portuguese police don't play ball, the self-righteous, mercenary media dress up their professional frustration as a lack of concern by the local police. Why should the Portuguese police feed the British press corps? How does it help their investigation to keep the British public hundreds of miles away up-to-date with every false lead, random sighting and unsubstantiated rumour? How does it help our understanding of the story to be told on the hour, every hour that there are still two crushed parents in the Algarve with no news of their missing daughter, live via satellite.

It is a slow-cooker of emotion that is always threatening to boil over, as rolling news coverage demands that its stories expand to fill the dead air. And where there is nothing concrete to say, we resort to impressionism; we have to be made to feel the anguish of bereft parents 24-hours a day, just to show we care, unlike the Portuguese police. As with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, you need to react emotionally to the news, or get pilloried as inhuman - what do you mean you didn't pull your own hair out and chain flowers to some railings? You heartless bastard.

No comments: