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Why we need to end sensationalist and attention grabbing news reporting now

Oh I am sure I will alienate people for this.

You see I mentioned yesterday that much of what was being reported in the news about the horrible attack at Westminster was at the time speculation. I got a bit of flak already. I have thick skin.

In this day of instant news, reporters, (I can’t bring myself to call them journalists) will say anything to get to the winning post first.

Print it first retract it later. Get sued eventually.

Go look at the headlines today. Remember the ones from July 2005 – the bright red London bus with the roof missing – for days it was all you saw on the newspapers and on the TV. A symbol of terrorism in London.  In the same way American filmmakers must have a red phone box and a double decker red bus and Big Ben somewhere in the film to tell the movie goer that we are In that London. They may throw in a Rolls Royce or a Mini for good measure and a flower seller who calls the star ‘guvnor’.

And so it is with reporting now. We must get the most graphic horrid picture flashed up as soon as possible. With blood in it.

Call it terrorism – and it probably is – before it has been confirmed.

Make sure that when one of the victims is named, that the fact that she has a British passport is mentioned, because she has a foreign sounding name. Call it as it is ‘ I am not racist, but…’ If she was named as Jane Smith and had a British passport would that have been reported? I doubt it.

I digress.

Many years ago I wanted to be a journalist. Or go into advertising. I even got an interview at The London College of Printing. My application included an article about why magazines continue to sell in the age of television. I argued that we could pick up a magazine at any time while TV was in the moment – this was 1977 and three channels and no catch up TV. Now of course every magazine has the same old articles – you look at 10 years of back numbers and you will have Spring Cleaning tips in March, the bikini body diet in May and the recipe for a Perfect Christmas in December. Every year. And TV is on repeats or binge watching Netflix. 24/7.

I am relieved to say that I did neither because now I would have to leave both jobs – as most of what both those industries do is lie, mislead and sensationalise. They thrive on making people feel bad about themselves. If you don’t have this seasons must have handbag, the latest iPhone or a new car the advertisers make you feel that you are a nothing and a nobody.  Add to that body shaming. That is advertising now. Pouting skinny supermodels who sell shoes whilst dressed like they are auditioning for Playboy hanging on the arm of a perfectly groomed man in an expensive suit.

Headlines that scream all brown people are terrorists with a picture of a  bloodied handkerchief at least – or even better the MP who tried to save the policeman covered with his blood. In case you did not know journos, the words, a policeman has died as a result of a stabbing attack is enough to convey the message that something horrible has happened and a family will be grieving. The MP may or may not be brave, his political party is irrelevant – but he did then what he thought the right thing to do was. If only more of us did.

But we don’t – we turn a blind eye to the truth, the cold hard facts and feed ourselves on fantasy lives with ever more outrageous story lines in a London Square or a Manchester Street. Fictitious communities with pubs that are open and not being knocked down to build more apartments with anti rough sleeper spikes outside on the windowsill of the inevitable Tesco Express. Is there a thriving cafe and corner shop run by a local family where you live? Or a Starbucks and superstore you need a car to get to?

On Christmas Day there will be a tragic story line. Because what you want on Christmas afternoon is to watch someone die and have a good cry. Occasionally the soaps run a storyline about cervical cancer or autism to redeem themselves. And get awards for doing so. Every actor is now a celeb of course. As are the reality show ‘stars’ – FFS fake tan and nice nails does not make you special.

Andy Warhol was right about fame.

And all of this is making us depressed or sad or miserable. All we have is doom and gloom in the news and magazines telling women that we aren’t good enough if we are not a whore in the bedroom, a maid in the living room and a cook in the kitchen. And we will never get a man if we are not all three – and hold down a high flying job in the city in our Manolo Blahnik shoes. And have babies while doing all this, be criticised for breastfeeding in public by men who have tits on Page Three. And men who cry or want paternity leave. Wusses if you are to believe the tabloids.

After 9/11 I stopped watching the news. My mother was appalled – you need to know what is going on in the world she said. Yes I do but I don’t need to see that plane crashing into the Twin Towers again and again and seeing people jump out of windows.

I don’t.

Others have told me that I will become an ignoramus if I don’t watch or listen or read the news.

I won’t.

If I want to know about what is happening in the world there are many resources – I can read the editorials of the papers in a cafe or online. I will read more than one – I research, and learn and form my opinion. I talk to other people and value their opinions (as long as is their opinion and not what they read in The Metro).

I know much more about what is going on around the world not just the UK. My news feed is global for many reasons and I like it that way. It keeps me balanced I believe and I don’t think that all the bad things only happen in England. And I get lots of good news too that way.

As the news broke yesterday – and I found out because someone commented on Facebook – my husband comes in from work having heard it on the radio and is behaving as if the sky was falling in. I reminded him that we needed to concentrate on the facts, be relieved that our daughter is in Canada not London and not speculate anything. The police have to do their investigations, the journos are after the scoop. And we don’t watch the news. Friends on social media take on the role of Henny Penny and Chicken Licken – tell me that I am wrong – to not immediately condemn it as a terrorist attack. I don’t know I reply and as I have heard very little I cannot form an opinion based on half a dozen comments on Facebook. And I don’t want to know more right then. So I watch DIY SOS and cry at that.

The someone who commented and alerted me to the situation was having a pretty shitty day. They did not need this news in their face today. And I told them to Turn It Off Now. You Don’t Need This Today. Self care is what you need. We all do.

Another friend in South America was guilting over being able to leave a town in distress caused by horrendous flooding – guilty for being able to be safe. You are doing the right thing I told him – one less person for the rescue team to worry about and you can’t help.  Did you know that this is happening in South America? Probably not as it isnt going to sell newspapers in the UK. See my comment above about my global news feed.

Today I investigate more and discover arrests have been made following a raid at a flat that is not too far from where I live. And so on social media local people are speculating on about whether it is in Smethwick or Edgbaston (because that is important?) and imagining how they may have walked past the terrorist in our midst. Because a terrorist will never shop in Aldi in Bearwood, would they? Throw in a good dose of racism, from a postcode of people who in the 60’s voted Conservative based on a anti Labour racist campaign – Britain’s most racist election – and it is time to leave that particular group because it is not about what is happening in my community it is a platform for people who are ignoramuses because they do watch and read the news and are brainwashed by Britain First and the Daily Fail.

When I said that we can’t jump to conclusions based on what we knew so far on social media friends (real ones, people I know and who know me) tell me that it is reality streamed – that I need to check the news on this one and that I am out of step. Reality streamed or sensationalism? Was I out of step? Give me facts and I will look into them (and so they did and so did I). And I value their comments and friendship. Friends should and could call it out when you are wrong. Although I still think I am right on somethings otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.

Surely sometimes we need to have a news black out – just for a while. I am not talking about ‘Alternative Facts’ distraction news to mask what is going on – because we all know that happens already. A Royal Wedding is a great way to distract the British from the recession and food banks. I am saying that investigations need to be made and I wouldn’t want to find out that my husband had died via Sky News. I do need to know that our police are doing all they can to prevent this happening and investigating this. I don’t need to see it all played out via reality streamed.

And in the meantime the ban on laptops in hand luggage on flights from certain countries and airline will do nothing to prevent what happened yesterday on 9/11 or on 7/7. But is will continue to feed the racists who now have evidence that everyone from Turkey or Syria is a laptop bomber.

And so the Orange Man wins.

I will end with a quote from a writer who has a sensible head on. Matt Haig. A writer with integrity and intelligence.


These Americans who talk about a terrorist incident signalling the ‘fall of London’ have no understanding of London and its history.

London has survived all kinds of terrorism. Catholic gunpowder plots, Victorian anarchists, the IRA, far right homophobes with nail bombs. It’s strong. The city survived the Blitz and stood fast against fascism, and didn’t stoop or withdraw. It went on to embrace the world. London isn’t going to change because of one act of hate.

London doesn’t close itself off from the world. London is the world in microcosm. That’s its strength.


2 comments on Why we need to end sensationalist and attention grabbing news reporting now

  1. Nicely said and sadly no matter how far away you are the same thing happens every station in Australia was playing the same story,each speculating and sharing the same non substantiated claims. We live in sad times and can only hope that people learn to be more discretionary about what they read and share .

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