What happened to the news?

OK. So!

Last week we didn’t know what we were doing… we were trapped somewhere between a mega-tsunami ripping through the world like a mega-tsunami and a nuclear explosion ripping a hole through the earths core and propelling humanity into the heart of the sun.

At least that’s what it felt like as the news unleashed its own flood of hyperbole and invective upon the world. We had 24 hour coverage that seemed to mix a loop of fuzzy long distance footage of reactor buildings exploding with fuzzy mobile footage of monstrous waves washing away cars and buildings.

Now the human angle here is huge, and obviously very important. People were dying. Lives were, and still are, at risk from the ongoing disaster unfolding in Japan. But I cannot physically believe it warranted the panic-mongering, breathless and relentless news bandwagon rolling it up, smoking it and blowing it into our faces as though it were the most precious crack hit they could muster. Suddenly friends and relatives, who believe what they see on the news, were saying things like “oh I think there could be hundreds of thousands dead” because 100 in news terms is the next logical progression from 10… and someone somewhere wanted a bigger story to hint at.

Even a cynic such as myself started absorbing repeated phrases like “meltdown” and “nuclear rods”  through a sweaty fug of osmosis. I had to physically focus myself on other events in the world to understand that we weren’t all going to die in a cloud of vapour like what happened to Acheron in Aliens when those heat exchangers went up. Jesus. I’m young still.. I have so much to offer – please don’t let a disaster on the other side of the world bring all that to an end.

Of course that self-centred self-piteous whine didn’t even have time to escape my lips though. Because, while they’re still pulling people, alive and dead, from wreckage in Japan, and, while they still battle bravely to bring their unstable nuclear reactors under control, the news has simply moved on.

Nothing has changed in Japan. Well – not so you’d notice. It’s just that, well, the news got a bit bored – and something happened in the UN and Libya which meant the West could bomb Gadaffi back to the stone age with impunity so suddenly the news forgot about Japan and switched attention back to the Middle East.

I don’t quite understand it all – I’m still struggling to come to terms with how the term “No Fly Zone” can mean “Bomb Tripoli to buggery as though high explosives + cities is actually the new cure for cancer”. What I do understand is no more Japan. Well not unless you actually look for it

This is at the bottom of the sky news website

Sky have relegated events in Japan to somewhere beneath the attention of anyone except those of us who still have a childish love of ninjas and martial arts. Alas – the headline is actually just a pathetic attempt to turn the eye – the story itself doesn’t have any ninjas in it – in fact it simply compares the potentially suicidal work of those in the nuclear plant to the selflessness of Samurai.

The public (under the influence of the media) are just as fickle…

At least Japan came in above an article about red ants!

The BBC most read are running the story in 4th. A far cry from when it was top billing, before the whole supermoon, Libya, man diving into paddling pool affair.

In Tokyo hotel receptions must be crowded with journalists, film crews and anchormen all checking out and cramming themselves on the next flight to Libya. In my head it’s like the evacuation of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war, with journalists punching and scuffling to get onto choppers and into the next story.

So what is the problem with this? After all – the blanket coverage of Japan was so sickening that it made me sick . Journalists morbidly rummaging through dead people’s possessions, talk of banning Japanese food because of the threat of contamination, empty streets in Tokyo blah blah blah.

The problem is that it seems to be all or nothing with the news. When a story breaks it’s like earth has found a new star to orbit round. When events unfolded in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya there was nothing else in the world for the gawpers to gawp at. We had coverage of every street in Cairo/Benghazi and a city of reporters camped out throughout the region.

Then Japan happened. And, to a person, the entire western press dropped the story like a hot brick to hotfoot it to the latest disaster zone so that George Alagiah could stand in front of a truck sitting on a car and read the news from there. For impact don’t you know. 

But Japan’s a week old now – and nothing has changed in a few days… But Libya? Hell… WE’RE GONNA BOMB THEM cue the press community high fiving and hotfooting it back to warmer climes. So while last week people were talking about Japan casualty figures they’re suddenly talking about Libya and bombs again… Want to book tickets for the Olympics? No – not if there’s a risk of Libyan terrorists blowing it all up??!?!

Meanwhile Saudi sent in troops to quash an uprising in Bahrain, Yemen also used force to quash its ongoing uprising and news just kept happening in all sorts of places round the world. The problem with the news these day’s is that it really is all or nothing. We have a media almost incapable of balancing stories against one another. The public is only deemed to have the attention span to cope with ONE story at a time. So instead of saying “here’s a bit on Japan, a bit on Libya and a bit on Saudi/Yemen/Bahrain” they say “EAT MY NEWS JAPAN” then “EAT MY NEWS LIBYA” then “erm… and some other stuff happened too”. It’s unbelievable. We have 24 hour news these days but those 24 hours can only, it seems, effectively cover one story at a time – but in 360 degree intensity that burns your soul out after a week, leaving you gagging for the next crack hit of media rush.


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