Everyone hates bad news, and there is a lot of it about, and of course we can’t blame the news media for that. What we can blame them for however, is making the news well, just terrible. I don’t just mean that they highlight all the most shocking issues for ratings and drama (although they often do), I mean bad production, bad story choices, bad reporting, and generally being inane enough to make me shout at the TV daily.
I try to avoid 24 hour news channels, as that much nonsense might make my head explode, but as a human with a normal interest in the world around me I will generally watch the evening news and/or BBC’s supposedly news based morning show, Breakfast. Now I don’t want to be too unkind to the BBC, as frankly it’s one of the few news channels I can bear to watch, but I still despair at the silliness of it all. I can’t help being appalled by the inane Brass Eye style graphics, the patronisingly simplistic reporting, the cringe inducing celebrity interviews and more infuriatingly the way they choose to cover major/global news stories.
I often seem to find the way the news media choose to report on major events and disasters distasteful. Especially their recent habit of ghoulishly filming grieving relatives going into funerals and even bodies of celebrities being removed from their homes. They generally seem to pick and choose which stories to cover based on the issues they deem as popular or current rather, than basing it on the need, human cost or suffering involved. The recent Haiti disaster is a sad example of the way the news can distort stories to suit them. I have watched various news channels over the last few weeks, and frankly I have been disgusted at the way many of them have decided to cover this story. While they have done a lot of good, making people aware of the suffering and need for support, a number of reporters just haven’t been able to resist focusing on the negative and highlighting inevitable outbreaks of violence.
In that situation any society would be in trouble, yet I have heard countless reporters imply that Haitian people are more violent and irrational than the rest of us, due to their troubled history. To me that is just a small step away from blaming them for their misfortune. Sounds far fetched but sadly TV evangelist Pat Robertson has done just that, blaming the Haitians for their misfortune as they had “made a pact with the devil”. These ridiculous statements have since been gleefully reported by various news sources, and of course most of them condemned his comments outright, after bringing it to our attention with shocking headlines first of course. I just can’t help thinking that focusing their cameras and our gaze at such negative comments, or any scuffle they can find, is unlikely to help the situation.
I could list plenty of other examples of news stories that have annoyed me over the last few weeks, but frankly there was no real need for me to say as much as I have, let alone more, as there is a man who says it all far better than I ever could. Charlie Brooker, guardian columnist, TV presenter and angry genius, has focused his attentions on the news media for Newswipe, a BBC show described as a sideways swipe at the news. The format is similar to his Screenwipe TV review show, and it’s equally funny. However as the news tends to be a bit less trivial than most entertainment shows, it can be a bit more depressing.
It’s great to realise that I am not alone in my disdain, and the ridiculousness of the clips he finds and his brilliantly caustic comments really bring home the reality of how awful the news can be. While he can be incredibly funny, even in the face of frankly horrific news stories, he is also appalled at certain aspects of the news and has a real talent for highlighting these flaws. It’s clear that he isn’t claiming to be an expert on news, but I believe that this lack of expertise and involvement actually enables him to notice and comment on how messed up news shows can be, in the same way that many of us do at home.
So if, like me, you find yourself becoming enraged by the inanity of the news and news related shows, check out Newswipe on BBC4 (22.30 on Tuesdays). We are currently on season 2, so there are plenty to catch up on via iPlayer/Youtube. While I loved it from the start, Brooker has really nailed this season, and every episode will have you laughing loud enough to annoy the neighbours. It may not make the news any better, but at least you can finally get some enjoyment out of bad news.