Anyone remember where they were when they found out Princess Diana had died? I guess lots of people now are too young for that shizzle. The people’s princess is something they can only recall on the replica plates on display at the homes of their elderly relatives.
Well I remember. That’s how cutting edge I am. I was not only ALIVE when she died but I was actually OLD ENOUGH to be cognisant of the entire event. Beat that if you can (Erm which anyone over 30 probably can).
I remember 2 things about Diana’s Death Day (or DDD as it should be known).
First is how I found out. There I was eating toast and telling everyone about my hatred of the royal family and how I wanted them all dead (that’s how I’d wake up every day – seriously). Someone piped up with ‘does that extend to Diana?’ to which I was like ‘yeah, she’s as bad as the rest of them’. Everyone laughed awkwardly and someone added ‘You know she died in a car crash last night’. Feeling the familiar embarrassment of being overextended in another rant I realised there was only one way to get out of this one. ‘GOOD!’ I said. Ignoring the fact that a mother and a daughter had been lost to the world. By the time of her funeral I was almost glad I’d said it. The national display of grief needed a bit of angst to counter the sentimental hyperbolic weepings of a nation.
The second thing that I remember about DDD was the press coverage. I mean it was SICKENING. I actually probably was physically sick a couple of times reading it (reading it being skim reading headlines and bylines in a red-misted rage about how much coverage she was getting). My mate’s parents had the Daily Mail and I remember screaming at all and sundry (friends, acquaintances, passers-by etc) over how the DM had given its first 7 pages! YES! SEVEN fucking pages to the death of one poxy people’s princess (or PPP).
Now you wouldn’t have expected a respectable broadsheet to behave like that would you? No single event should take up that much newsprint in a day should it?
Well fast forward to this weekend. I’m out walking the dog. And in all this hacking excitement I realise I’ve missed the news. Like proper news. Where stuff happens and gets reported. Not the hacking news which is like a single news meme which has gone viral. A dancing hamsters craze of news that has spawned a million news offshoots all of which require a portion of attention. Or a choose your own adventure of speculation and intrigue. “go to http://www.hasrebekahbrooksbeensackedyet.com/ if you want to know if Rebekah Brooks has been sacked yet”.
That’s not to say this isn’t vital or addictive or important or any of those things but. Y’know? News is all about N.E.W.S. – like “What is going on in the world” not “What is going on in every facet of one aspect of one country’s news”. The hacking scandal has rapidly become the cocaine of the news world. Sitting at the centre of attention moorishly delivering hit after hit and shouting “ME ME ME”, while being generally bored with everything else that happens because it’s not as interesting as “WHAT I THINK” and when the rush wears off it’s just a habit. You end up washed out but still checking twitter or BBC to see what the latest hacking stuff is more out of duty than genuine interest.
So you see – that’s where I was. Walking my dog. Wanting a news hit that wasn’t a compulsive repetition of my week’s news feed. I’m REALLY interested in events unfolding in the Horn of Africa. I keep saying it but 10 million people under threat is almost as big as the number of people claimed by the holocaust, and that is rightly still a newsworthy topic after 70 years! I’m also really keen to see what’s happening in the US debt/politics crisis and the Euro-zone debt crisis too. This is like a second wave of financial armageddon for advanced capitalist society as we know it – first came the banks and now entire financial systems are wavering on debt restructuring and market forces. Adam Smith’s Animal Spirits have run wild and his Invisible Hand is sticking up two fingers to those who think that self governance is somehow Pareto efficient.
So I pick up the Guardian. Big. Fucking. Mistake.
I was disgusted when the Daily Mail ran 7 pages of news on Diana. The Guardian on Saturday ran 11 pages of news on Hacking. ELEVEN PAGES. Imagine that editorial meeting where this was fucking decided?!?!
“So – we’ve got a big weekend ahead of us. Jim – what are you covering?”
“OK – big story hacking – Sue? You got anything for me?”
“Hah ha -good idea belt and braces approach. Mike?”
“I thought I’d do something about hacking”
“OK so does anyone not have any hacking stories to file?”
I cannot fathom how a newspaper would see fit to devote eleven of its first pages to phone hacking. I didn’t need to read ANY of those eleven pages. Not even the full-page Murdoch ad apologising for being a twat. I’d seen it all before expressed on twitter, television, newspaper websites and in my fevered hackinggate dreams.
So I flick past those ELEVEN PAGES looking for some actual news. Shockingly there was very little else. Lots of opinion pieces. Horn of Africa? Well the paper had 2 main section half page ads taken out by charities to raise awareness. It also had a dropout leaflet from another charity. So people were PAYING the Guardian to raise awareness about the Horn of Africa. The paper itself had NOTHING. Not a jot. I was amazed. Here we have a huge humanitarian disaster unfolding. One so big that Al Qaeda are even letting aid get through in Somalia – but we have zero coverage in my favourite Saturday paper.
“I know” I thought “maybe they thought famine photos looked better in gloss. Maybe they’ve covered it in the magazine” WRONG. Ten million people facing starvation and the Guardian Magazine has Tiny Tempah making seafood linguini. In fact in an affront to starving people everywhere the magazine was like a little glossy foodporn mag full of shit celebrity recipes and decadent photo shoots as though slavish fans of Franz Ferdinand would WANT to eat the same venison as the band cook.
So that’s the Saturday paper binned. What about the Sunday Times? The Sunday Times the monstrous “Sunday Papers” which would probably take a month to read in entirety MUST have covered this. And in this respect it was infinitely better than the Guardian. Infinity being easy if compared to zero. You see the Times held back on the hacking coverage (why is that????) but still only dedicated a 50-word-odd “in brief” to the Horn of Africa story.
This, for me, is the big problem with this hacking story. It’s become a national obsession. And rightly so. We should be obsessed with it. Generally Guardian coverage has been essential and brilliant – it’s a story that just keeps giving. But the papers, especially the weekend ones, run to hundreds of pages. The TV news is 24 hours long EVERY DAY. There is stuff going on in the world that we NEED to know about. When I look at the news I want to see hacking splashed all over it. But I also want to see other stuff splashed about too.
I do not want to see people starving with no aid or attention because we’re so obsessed with one thing. I don’t want to see the collapse of major economic powers going unreported because we’re still talking about Rebekah Brooks. Last night in the pits of despair I saw that there was only one thing capable of taking on the Hacking story in terms of public attention. That was the final of the apprentice. Sometimes we really don’t deserve to be free of the Murdoch Press!