Tag Archives: News

The final countdown

Ok. So. Today’s important. Right?

I know it’s important cos the sound of bells was ringing all around me as I got ready to go to work. I felt like a regular Quasimodo throwing myself around the house screeching and wailing. I looked out the window for the hordes of zombies or enemy tanks. Could Germany really be invading again? On such a lovely day?

No. It’s the Olympics. The fucking Olympics. A 2 week sporting event. Held in London. 30 miles from my home. That is what they were for.

Personally I can’t wait for the Olympics to start. Never mind that events started days ago. Nothing “really” starts until we have a pointlessly choreographed display of National vanity that wouldn’t be amiss in North Korea. Nothing starts til we have a condescending homage to a national health service that our national government is actively seeking to destroy.

I can’t put up the Olympic rings because I’ll probably get hung for it. So here’s an image the Olympic organisers couldn’t manage themselves

I’m gonna really enjoy the next few weeks. The spectacle, the sports, the crowded public transport. I’m going to relish every second like it’s bullet time. Not least because the ringing of the bells today marked the beginning of the end. The end of all the fucking media hype we’ve had to wash our faces in daily with no respite.

You see. The London Olympics actually started 7 years ago when we won the dubious honour of hosting them. Never mind Beijing and the glorious display of vanity that China treated us to. I remember all through the Beijing Olympics you could never go more than a minute of commentary without some frothing news anchor dribbling out platitudes and speculation of how London would compare. Even during the closing ceremony in Beijing, which hit home like a Matthew Bourne performance on acid, the talk was all about the ‘iconic’ red bus as Boris Johnson shambled around looking like a crumpled insurance salesman cadging the credit for an event his predecessor had won. Since then things have only intensified.

So yeah. Today marks the end of 7 years of the press and media collectively building to a national orgasm. By the end of tonight’s ceremony there will be pundits everywhere letting out a collective scream/groan/shout. Then we might be able to get on with things.

Think I’m joking. Over the last year not a single fucking day has gone by without an Olympic story in the press. Papers have been COUNTING DOWN the days on their front pages. Not from 5 days. Or 10. For an ENTIRE YEAR. “135 days to go to the Olympics” shouted from the front page as if I could give a fuck.

It got worse very quickly. I remember switching the telly on in May (yes. May. 2 months ago). The BBC had a whole crew out live reporting the arrival of the flame. They were providing vapid commentary of the helicopter’s movements as it carried the flame to our shore. They were vox popping the idiots who turned out to watch it arrive at some god forsaken hour. “You’re going to see the Olympic torch how does it feel”. Never mind that we have an ongoing insurgency and massacres in Syria. The news still found time to report the progress of the Olympic torch as it staggered around the country. Daily fucking updates on where a glorified zippo was hanging out on a 15 minute loop.

The Guardian have started offering a button for people to view the news “without” the Olympics. Nice but why do that now they’ve started? Now they’re relevant. Less so over the last 6 months. Probably because the Guardian loved the hype as well, especially gleefully poking shambolicisms like LOCOG’s branding guidelines and the G4S debacle. And these are “actual”  stories. They don’t include all the pap about what Bolt had for breakfast or who the latest ‘Team GB’ member is to sit in a photo booth advertising their Adidas shirt.

This is just a bit of whackiness. It is NOT – REPEAT NOT – a cynical advertising and publicity stunt.

So finally, the Olympics can begin. We can see people reporting on actual fucking events rather than speculating endlessly about what ‘might’ happen. Those Olympic correspondents who were appointed years ago can finally do their job instead of trying to crowbar an Olympic angle into everything.

And then the collective hysteria can die. We can look forward to a September when the news is truly a spent force. All the budget they blew in August will come back to haunt them. Olympics correspondents will become homeless, begging in the street for news chunks. After a collective national love-in we’ll all suddenly suffer massive hangovers as the realisation that we’re all skint and our economy is tanking kicks in again. Perhaps we should thank the Olympics for a bit of respite.

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Safety in numbers

Ok. So.

Here’s a game for you. I play it all the time when I’m watching the news channels. You know there are virtually always two people who read the news together? Well try to concentrate all your attentions on whichever one isn’t actually reading the news at the time. Whenever the camera pans back showing the two of them focus intently on the ‘non-reader’.

It’s hilarious. They look like sombre-faced idiots, extras at a funeral, the people in the background of your holiday snaps unwittingly caught on film while chewing on a sandwich or walking purposefully past the houses of parliament.

He talks, she chews on something

I love playing the game. I play it all the time. I play it when they have people on to interview or when their reporters are out picking up vox-pops from members of the public stupid enough to let their opinions be aired. Any news piece where there are non-speaking parts become brilliant unwitting testimony.

She talks he looks like he's masturbating

I’ve started playing it everywhere now. When I’m watching any tv programme I’m focused on the background checking out non speakers. Extras in sitcoms and soaps are good ones. Standing around looking awkward because they need to be in shot to provide atmosphere but know they’ve not got anything to add. Sad faced aspiring actors hoping to get spotted. Real life Gervaises. Or the goggling crowds of voyeurs gathering at the scene of a disaster caught by the camera laughing at jokes with friends while reporters sombrely run through casualties. Now even when I’m looking at random photos I scan for gawpers who may have been caught up in some foolishness or other.

Look at the bloke walking in shot... ha ha JUST LOOK AT HIM

But what’s all this got to do with news? Well it’s pointless isn’t it! What is the point of them? Sitting there mutely, nodding sagely at camera four trying to convey a sense of gravitas. Are they supposed to be mime artists visually summing up the tone while the person speaking gives the detail? Try turning the sound down and working out if the story is good news or bad news from the non-speakers expression. I’m surprised they don’t pull little boo-hoo faces at the camera and rub their eyes when something sad happens. How else can they be explained? Is it to help their voices? Will they go hoarse if left to read on their own? Something else too. They’re nearly all men with women aren’t they? Why is that? 

I’ll tell you why. One upon a time, when news was news and sitcoms were racist, we only ever needed one person, man or woman, to read it out. News is, by definition a description of unfolding events.

As the news god decreed. One person shall readeth the terrestrial news

News on non-news channels still only needs one reader. If you want news magazines or documentaries or user driven content then fuck off to newsnight or question time or whatever for your analysis fix.

This is not news. This is an "interview"! capiche?

Me? I want one person telling me what’s happening in neutral tones with the help of the odd report from the field of wherever news is happening. THAT IS NEWS!

But when you’re belching out news all day long on dedicated channels. The same news, on 15 minute loops (as sky news often proudly proclaims, as though there is kudos to be had in a 24 hour news station dumbing the world down to 15 mins including ad breaks, which equates to 96 repetitions a day!) can get a bit boring.

So what do you do. Well, we live in a hugely diverse and globalised world with events taking place at breakneck pace everywhere. Why not be even-handed, not Eurocentric and report MORE and BETTER news.

Nope. I’ll tell you what you do. You bring in a couple of presenters of opposite sexes who report alternate stories and occasionally laugh at each other to create some ‘chemistry’. People will wonder ‘will they won’t they! Do they don’t they?’ and it will disguise the abject 15 minute repetition being run.

He reads she "smoulders"

Then we’ll go a step further! We can bring outsiders into the studio and we can ask them questions allowing them to generally state the obvious. Maybe the audience will think there’s a threesome in the offing? Tell you what. We’ll drown a single story in reporters who will ask members of the public what they think and we’ll have a veritable roman orgy of intrigue.

This is the laziness of it. You don’t need someone holding your hand to read a story. It just ‘looks’ better. Having someone in the studio to talk to is great if they are actually adding any value but they aren’t really. In 9 cases out of 10 they’re just there to mix up the aesthetic a little. Listen carefully to what they say. It’s either really obvious or it’s nothing that couldn’t have been said by a newsreader anyway. Like I say, if you want value added guests then go watch a chat show or a review show like newsnight.

When Michael Jackson died they brought in a fan to laugh. Why?

Reporting from the field I agree with, but sending people out to interview the public?!? I mean why ask them what they think? Surely you should be telling them what’s happening not asking them to tell their peers what to think just so you can throw out a dragnet of knee-jerk onto the airwaves in the hope of snagging some emotionally stunted agreement.

What's YOUR lone thought in the void?

Faced with the prospect of running a 24/7 news service you can see how news producers balked. They had to find more content, probably on a limited budget, and retain viewers too. They could have tried new angles, varied reporting, proper investigative journalism a more global and non-western-centric agenda. But they didn’t.

Instead they pulled out every cheap trick in the book to retain the attention of viewers as they condensed world news into a 15 minute loop so dumbed down that dumbo the dumbest dummie in dumbville could watch it, and wonder to himself if the presenters ever went for a drink together off-air.