Lucid Thoughts

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What matters more – The News Of The World or the news of the world?

Saturday, 16 July 2011 17:51

Over the past few weeks you could hardly switch on the TV, read a newspaper or listen to the radio without getting a regular update on the Murdoch/News of the World saga. Each day brought a new, horrifying revelation. And let's be honest – we loved it. Underpinning the story were serious questions about the power of the Press over our politicians, corruption of our Police and invasion of our privacy; all important questions. But what kept it going was two things – it was about the media and the media love nothing more than talking about themselves, especially if they can denigrate a competitor; and it had the ingredients of a good story – characters we love to hate, money, and a constant flow of fresh revelations.

So that's alright then. Or is it?

While this story was unfolding another one was virtually shoved aside. Sure, it got the odd mention and it seems to be getting a little more attention now. But this story didn't directly involve us. No, it just involved 10 million other people, many of whom are either in danger of starving to death or are actually doing so. This is, of course, the truly horrifying story that's unfolding in East Africa. The last time something similar happened it was front page news. Why? Because Bob Geldorf and some famous musicians made it their business to capture the attention of politicians and the media.

So, does that mean we need celebrities to endorse something before the media will give it the attention it deserves? I hope not but for me this seems to be symptomatic of their behaviour. What was going on in the world when Wills and Kate were about to get hitched? Did all wars stop? Did starvation cease? Did the world's economic problems halt? Well, no not exactly. But you'd be forgiven for thinking that the only thing worth talking about was a wedding involving our royal family.

Sure, it was a well-staged wedding, sure it made us feel good (and there's precious little of that in the news these days), and sure they make a handsome couple. But in the scheme of things how important was it?

With the honourable exception of BBC 4 News, our TV news channels are insular. Yes, they do report on the really dramatic stuff, like a massive earthquake and nuclear power stations going into meltdown but most of the time it's about our little island and all too often it's not news at all – it's gossip about celebrities.

We keep being told that we live in 'a globalised world' (a strange phrase – I prefer 'an inter-connected world' or our old friend the 'global village') but to judge from the output of our news media you'd think the cartographers had made a mistake and our tiny island was actually about the size of Asia.

I know it's fashionable to be cynical about journalists but I think we have some very talented ones. And, perhaps like politicians we only get the journalism we deserve.

In other words, perhaps they're serving up all this insular, celebrity-fuelled stuff because that's what we want. Let's hope not!

Personally, I'm sure there are some great stories out there just waiting to be found. Take this, for instance – I just googled 'cure for malaria' – one of the biggest killers in the world today. This is what I found:

'Friday 15th July 2011: a malaria vaccine, expected to protect against all known strains of the deadly disease, will be launched at Queensland's Griffith University today.'

Well that's interesting isn't it?

Oh, and by the way you can actually do something to influence the news and make a difference. If you haven't already done so, for the famine in East Africa, you can donate at DEC:

2012: into the unknown
Making the message memorable (in Manila)