Top Shop on Tuesday night after the student demonstration.
The father of a student who got brain damage in the demonstrations was being interviewed on the news. He was in his living room and there’s a box of the board game cranium in the background. I shouldn’t laugh…
It’s always interesting to see a topic you actually know something about being covered in the news. It’s a depressing insight into journalism because the article usually misses the point, is full of mistakes and squeezes the facts into whatever sounds like a good story. Whenever there’s a story about an employment law case I’m always left shouting “Bollocks!” at the TV or radio and Mr Beet was the same (but less sweary) when swine flu was all over the news.
There’s recently been a new bit of employment law legislation called the Equality Act. It’s largely a tidying up exercise – bringing all the separate bits of legislation into one act, and there are some new bits and pieces in there but these were generally around in case law anyway and they’re only really of interest to employment lawyers.
The Daily Mail headline:
Death of the office joke: ANYONE can sue for ANYTHING that offends them
Aside from the obvious hyperbole, which would probably be taken with a very large pinch of salt by the average reader, there is a more subtle manipulation of the facts in the article. The new act consolidates the concept of discrimination by association, i.e. a worker is protected if they are discriminated against because of a family member’s race / sex / disability etc. The Mail’s example is people with gay relatives, who will now be protected from discrimination. Every legal commentary I’ve seen on this point uses the example of parents of disabled children, because this is where the vast majority of this type of claim is anticipated to come from. But of course, carers of disabled children aren’t suitable subjects for the “political correctness gone mad” tone of the article, certainly not if it means passing up the opportunity to have a bit of a dig at gay people.
“What do expect from the Daily Mail?” I hear you cry. Well yes, but even Radio 4 has been calling this new act the biggest thing in employment law in 10 years, which is just not true. It’s just not that big a deal; why do respected broadcasters feel the need to ”sex up” a relatively minor story about some new legislation in this way?
I have to remember this next time I’m reading / listening to a story on a topic I don’t know about: it’s been prepared by a journalist who may not be familiar with the subject, whose job it is to present a good story and it’s probably half true at best.
The newsreader on BBC London (MIKE RAMSDEN!) just said the phrase
“[something bad has happened to X people] many of them children“
twice within a minute.
I think 1 child = 5 adults in terms of the journalistic importance of something bad happening to them. They’re just worth more than us fully-grown human beings. The little angels.
It’s not quite as shitty as the journalistic ratio of 1 Briton = 100 foreigners.
“There’s been a [disaster] in [exotic locations]. 200 people are believed to have died, including 3 Britons.” 200 people dying = 200 people dying. It doesn’t count for extra because they had the same passport as me.
Every weekday I wake up to Radio 4 and then go downstairs and put the TV on while I eat my breakfast. What I want is the TV equivalent of the Today programme. What I get is a choice between BBC Breakfast and GMTV. They are both so rubbish that I get exasperated with one, switch over to the other for five minutes until I get exasperated with that and so on, until it’s time to leave the house and I’m quite cross.
The main reason that I dislike them is that they are both so banal and treat their audiences like idiots. BBC Breakfast likes to dress up magazine-type stories as news and wheels out the same talking heads again and again to opine about them. The presenters are specifically chosen for their blandness and talk to the audience like we’re a bit senile and liable to get upset if they don’t come out with platitudes and concerned expressions whether the story is about child abuse or wheelie bin collection.
If anything, I marginally prefer GMTV because at least the main focus is on showbiz stories so they’re not pretending to be something they’re not. But when they do try to tackle a news story and the presenter who used to be a tennis player starts getting all self-righteous and talking about hard-working families or the nanny state, I want to throw up. I know they’re only allocated a minute and a half per news item (although they’ll spend a good five minutes on the Jonas Brothers), but I hate it when they have some minister on to talk about a new initiative or something and they don’t even let them explain it first, they just start off saying “Isn’t this all just a waste of money that could be spent on our brave boys in Afghanistan / hard-working families / pensioners / nurses / guide dogs / fluffy bunnies.” That’s not journalism, that’s just rude. It might work when Jeremy Paxman asks a dismissive question, and you feel that there’s some intellectual weight behind it. But Ben Shepherd et al can’t really pull off the same trick.
Anyway – rant over. I’ve decided to amuse myself by posting some of the more stupid comments I hear. That way, when they say something idiotic I will be exasperated, but also pleased that I will have something to blog about. And that might make me slightly more cheerful in the mornings.
GMTV this morning
“Have you seen the state of Nick Clegg? I don’t know what his wife Miriam has been doing – but she certainly hasn’t been ironing his shirts.”
It would improve the quality of my life enormously if I had the ability to make people on my tv spontaneously combust.
My favourite journalistic cliche has been out in force the past few days, although with slightly more justification as volcanic ash at least has a novelty value compared to something like snow which happens every year. I don’t know why journalists relish these stories quite so much. Show a journalist a group of crumpled, tired travellers some of whom will have a story about missing a wedding / birthday / ill relative, and that journalist will be as happy as a dog with two dicks (as my Dad would have it).
I don’t know what’s happened to the stiff-upper-lip-keep-calm-and-carry-on attitude that Brits are meant to have. I suppose they choose to broadcast the most whiney passengers, but I seriously don’t know how people can complain so bitterly. OK, so you missed a family occasion and had to sleep on a bench at the train station. You do realise that they are going to show your interview on the news, possibly after an item about people being dug out of debris after an earthquake or similar, so please try to show a little self-awareness and not portray your travel problems as the worst plight ever to befall humanity.
I was saying to Mr Beet the other day that I don’t like the line in Lily Allen’s song “The Fear” when she says “life’s about film stars and less about mothers”, which I think is nonsense because the media completely fetishise motherhood these days*.
The first paragraph of this article is a prime example. OK, I know it’s the Daily Mail so it is a little more…..(grasps for neutral word)…strident than a proper newspaper. But I think the media generally are increasingly obsessed with motherhood, particularly mothers with pre-school children; stay at home mums v working mums, celebrity mums, have-it-all mums, yummy mummies and slummy mummies.
I won’t even bother taking issue with the rest of what it says in the article, because….you know….it’s the Daily Mail.
* I know, I know… poor Mr Beet having to listen to my crap theories. I would point out that I don’t spend the whole time saying things like this. There’s a lot of conversations about what to have for dinner, what’s going on in Glee, what the Hell is up with Richard Hammond’s hair etc. Even this conversation rapidly moved on to how much I like the balloons in the music video.
I know things are quiet at the moment because everything’s winding down for Christmas but I wish the tv news would stop pretending that “travel chaos” is a news item worthy of so much attention. It’s winter. The weather’s bad. Some people are having trouble getting from A to B because of it. IT HAPPENS EVERY YEAR. I’m sure it’s very frustrating for those involved – but it’s just not a big news story and you can’t spend half your programme on it for days on end. Travel and weather have their own separate section after the proper news and barring some kind of major (and I mean major) incident that’s exactly where they should stay.
Compare and contrast:
Some people can’t get their flights because of snow in December – not news.
Some people can’t get their flights because terrorists have hijacked the Air Traffic Control system – news (also the plot of Die Hard 2)
Also, if I were boss of a news programme, I’d ban anyone from using the lazy hyperbolic cliche “travel chaos” which is ridiculous. There was heavy snow in February this year. I was meant to be flying from Gatwick but the trains couldn’t get through. Then when I finally arrived at the airport, the flights were cancelled. Then I couldn’t get back home for a while because the trains had stopped running again. All these things were pretty annoying, but was I in the middle of a swirling vortex of chaos? No. I was just stuck somewhere for a bit when I was meant to be somewhere else. There were queues. There was whingeing from my fellow travellers. There were stressed airport employees. If you think these things amount to “chaos” then you are severely lacking in imagination. Chaos means riots. If people are queuing, then that’s practically the definition of non-chaotic.