Monday, March 21, 2011

News P*rn

I used to keep up with current events. I still do but I’m getting more and more disillusioned with the way in which it is presented. It’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish facts from rhetoric and separate detail from speculation.

News used to be reported as facts. A sombre individual sat behind a desk and read out a concise and crisply edited statement of events. An expert correspondent might be drafted in to give an opinion. A location report might also be included; again, presented with the emphasis on the facts.

Now with rolling 24 hour news channels you need more than facts. You have to sustain a drama as well. Even when nothing is happening you have to give the impression something is happening, or is about to happen.

This has reached its nadir in Japan where the distressing scale of human suffering should be enough to confine any self-respecting presenter to simply report facts and observe events. But no, it’s not enough. I’ve seen some reports where the broadcaster seems to be positively salivating at the prospect of a nuclear meltdown. There now seems almost tangible disappointment in their reports that the situation may be coming under control. They all know that “Disaster averted” is nowhere near such a good headline as “DISASTER!!!!” Some reporting has bordered on the grotesque, such is the voyeuristic and salacious manner in which it is delivered. Ocasionally a scientist will be brought in, ostensibly to add technical detail, but they're rarely given a chance to answer anything more than "When's it all going to BLOW UP?"

Not even the studio-bound newsreader is expected to just read the news. They now put emphasis and intonation into the reports that make them sound like they’re reading a bedtime ghost story to a ten year old rather than simply reporting the news. Whilst the words may be impartial, the presentation style tends to quickly expose the political or editorial opinions of the TV station or newsreader.

I don’t want my news as melodrama or simply used as a vehicle for the presenter’s ego. I want it as facts. Is that too much to ask?