No News Is…News? By Trevor Plumbly

Stirred by the lead news stories in my country recently, I decided to risk belabouring the issues I raised in an earlier article. The media, it seems, feels that my font of knowledge would be tainted by hard news, and that the daily doings of the rich, famous and infamous are more suited to my intellect. Just for fun, I’ll run a few of these journalistic bombshells past you and trust that your pulse rate remains stable.

‘John Travolta accused of making sexual advances to a male masseur.’ Now apart from Mr Travolta, the aggrieved masseur and a few lawyers, how and where the guy gets his jollies shouldn’t really be of much concern, but the international media gave it the same prominence as war and the financial woes of Europe.

‘Tom Cruise’s daughter to attend Catholic school under divorce settlement.’ Once again, who cares? And is it a story that serves any purpose except to titillate the palates of those sadly fixated on the misfortunes of the darlings of the tabloid press. Surely even those being paid to trash tall poppies could come up with better than that.

‘Inflation at its lowest for 7 years!’ This headline was followed by a lengthy article explaining that, whilst this was noteworthy, it would have no effect on prices. If some kind reader could explain why the front page of a major newspaper should be devoted to informing me that nothing has changed, I’d be most grateful.

In fairness, those who deliver our news are dealing with an internet barrage of worldwide events all day and every day, and must then decide on importance and order. Obviously human nature draws them to the populist path. Mr and Mrs Average have become accustomed to getting their news in snack form, so shock, horror, sport and tittle tattle lead, while the things that affect our society and its welfare are relegated beyond page three. Apart from at election times, in-depth press interviews with politicians are just about a thing of the past. TV and radio, which are subject to time constraints and advert breaks, are much less inclined to delve too deeply into specifics: they’re an ideal format for snappy one-liners instead of informative answers. The mass media, it seems, altered the way news was delivered, and then appointed themselves judge of what should be considered prominent and relevant.

Older folk tend to look backwards fondly, and I guess I’m no different, remembering the sheer professionalism of John Pilger’s articles and the gentle craftsmanship of Alistair Cooke in ‘Letter from America’. I can’t help feeling that Murdoch and Co have deprived us all of something pretty important.

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