Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

This blog starts off like the New Year - full of good intentions but somehow gets lost as things progress (or regress if you like!).

I am fed up with the news. Doesn't matter if it is TV, newspaper or internet. What used to be a means of informing us what has happened or is happening in the world has turned into a massive industry catering for a public which seems to have the attention span of a tadpole.

Recently, I have found myself switching on the computer and checking the news. I then sit down to breakfast and watch TV news. After breakfast I pick
TV Rant
up the newspaper and read it all again, albeit by now a few hours out of date.

The TV news is the one that starts off the geriatric rumblings. It seems to consist of interviews with people who have a very subjective view of this or that situation. Often it involves asking the government
to provide financial help for their industry, occupation, gender, age or section of the community. Again I find myself talking to the screen (what a waste of time that is) and asking who the hell is going to pay for it (You and me) and is their need really greater than any other.

News Reader
There are some excellent news readers and interviewers, others who are only interested in promoting themselves as combative and forceful interviewers. They allow their political bias to show almost as though they are wearing a party logo.

Someone in the background must select and edit the news items for the reader to present. The school bus that crashed with deaths and injuries is 'Good'. The school bus that narrowly avoided crashing due to the skill of the driver is not 'Good' and might rate a two line mention.

The problem is, we have to assume the producers of news papers, websites and all forms of news agencies know what they are doing - in other words answering the needs of their viewers, listeners and readers.
'WE' must in one way or another demand the news we get. 'WE' must want the bad news. Good news isn't exciting. TV in particular is a medium where the shocking, horrifying and even downright cranky is flavour of the day or perhaps even the year. The news reader talking on the phone to an eye witness asks "What news of casualties?" knowing that we hunger for deaths and injuries. Isn't that sad!?

Talking of 'cranky. TV seems to sort out the oddballs for many programmes. I often watch Bargain Hunt and many of the so called experts appear to be 'Tuppence short of a shilling'. I am quite certain they lay it on when the
Hanson & Manning
cameras start, rolling eyes, twitching, emphasising the end of words. They won't ever see this so I suppose we can use names. Anita Manning "So let's take a look at it ANYWAY". Charles Hanson suffers from something like the dreaded twitch when he is in front of the camera. See him away from Bargain Hunt and he looks almost normal.

Another digression. When I was at Samlesbury Hall the 'Look North West' TV team regularly came to the Hall to do programmes. It was always quite a large team and they often brought a guest. One such regular was a farmer from Cheshire. A quite normal, middle aged man who. as I remember. talked about farming in the North West.

Talking to him off camera he was just what you would expect from the farming community but put him front of the camera and it was though you had dragged someone in from the home for the bewildered. He postured, put on a strange voice and accent and general hammed it up. Stuart Hall and the crew loved him. I thought he was a nut case.

North West

So there you are. As William said to me the other day about one of our blogs "I won't damn you with faint praise as my headmaster once did with me" I quote "William has made a valiant effort this year."

A Comment
Today’s blog rang loud bells for me.

In a previous life as CEO of a large charity, I became used to chasing ’news opportunities’ to gain some attention for the cause that I was keen to promote. The aim was always to try to get onto the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 and I was lucky enough to succeed a few times, but never on the 08.10 slot which is always reserved for the Big Story of the day and generally involves a senior politician. The slot that I usually got was at 06.50 when the majority of the population was still asleep!

It was clear that the Today Programme often set the news agenda for the day and if one was fortunate enough to be given a few minutes of air time it would often follow that the rest of the day would be taken up with other interviews including a whole raft of local radio stations, all done in quick succession from the same studio in Broadcasting House where the importance of remembering if one had already made the point or whether that had been in the previous interview a few minutes earlier.

Sometimes one would need to use a local ‘self op’ studio. The one that I was most used to was at the BBC Monitoring Station in Caversham, I felt that I had to avert my eyes when walking through the main 'listening room' where there was a large interactive map on the wall showing which countries were being ‘listened to’ at the time.

It often occurred to me (and still does) that the media not only report the news but also create it, such is the power of mass media and the thirst that we are all guilty of for the attention grabbing headline. I used to smile at the news planning departments that most radio and television stations would have. It was as though the producers and senior presenters would decide what we, the public, should be told thus determining the news, or at any rate the flavour and slant that it would be given.

You mention good news and the fact that it’s not exciting. I got to know Martyn Lewis (now Sir Martyn) quite well, he was a champion of the good news story and always did what he could to include one in the bulletin that he was presenting. Sadly it didn’t last long - the thirst for gloom and disaster (of which there was no shortage) soon won the day.

I’m very glad that I’m no longer slave to the whim of radio and television producers, despite the buzz that I would get at the time and the value that such coverage gave to the cause.


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