I’ve found watching the news coverage of the Haiti earthquake and its aftermath to be quite unsettling. George Alagiah and company stand at the airport anchoring the whole news programme repeatedly telling us how food, fuel and water are in terribly short supply and that people are dying because of the shortages. Would that be the sort of food, fuel and water that news anchors and their attendant crews are consuming? And would space on the flights out to Haiti be better filled with aid than with the size of TV crew required to present the whole bulletin remotely.
By all means send reporters out to show the scale of the problem but it seems completely unnecessary for the news to be presented from the disaster area — morally dubious in its prurience.
This co-incided with the first episode of Charlie Brooker’s new series of Newswipe on BBC4. I’m generally a great fan of Brooker, though I occasionally find his rants too grating when he drops the self-deprecation and gets too high on his moral horse. In this episode he exposed the irrational faddishness of the editorial decisions made on television news and the pack mentality that seems to have infected news decision making since the advent of 24 hour news channels. There really isn’t much logic in the importance placed on stories — if it fits a particular narrative it gets coverage. It’s not much different from superstition in the middle ages.
Truth often ends up imitating fiction and our news media seems to resemble the ludicrous parodies that Chris Morris produced in the 90s — ‘The Day Today’ and ‘Brass Eye’ (the special of which I have on DVD as it’s not very likely to be repeated).