Belfast Telegraph

Why is it always nothing but same old story on the news?

By Nuala McKeever

By the time you read this, everything that can be said about the events of last week, will probably have been said and more than once.

So I won’t presume to keep adding to the already huge piles of opinion ... ’cos let’s face it, we need huge piles like a recreational rioter needs a hike in petrol prices

Most likely you’ll have seen the footage, heard the accusations and counter-accusations, shouted at people on radio phone-ins, called in to radio phone-ins, ranted in the pub and tut-tutted, heaved a big sigh and switched the TV over to something else with an “Och I just don’t know, this place”. Let’s call this recreational cringing followed by recreational resignation.

Of course, if you’re lucky, you’ll have been away and won’t have seen or heard a thing. You’ll have been enjoying recreational recreation.

And if you’re really lucky, you’ll have been the First or Deputy First Minister and while you will have seen and heard plenty, you won’t have felt too bothered about shouldering any responsibility whatsoever for the situation that led to the situation. Let’s call this, recreational abdication.

So, no more opinion. But I have a question — why do the actions of several hundred people dominate the news from Northern Ireland worldwide?

“Because it’s the news, you moron!”, I hear you cry, somewhat uncharitably, but we’ll let that one go for now

“Yes, I know it’s the news!” I reply, biting my tongue ’cos I’m not allowed to say “you moron” back, ’cos I have to be mature, to back up my argument here. “But why is that the news and not something else?” I persist.

“What are you, some happy clappy Corrymeela head, you moron?!” you reply (your self righeousness over-rides any concerns about looking mature) “Are you one of these people who thinks we should only have good news? Huh? Huh?”

“Eh, no, I’m not so naïve as to think that, but I do know something about how news stories are selected by broadcasters and newspapers and I question the assumption that what a small number of people, with a deadline looming, decides is important, is actually important.” (I mutter “moron” under my breath, ’cos maturity’s not my strong point.)

Did you know for example that one of the most important criteria for judging a TV news story’s “sexiness” is whether or not there are pictures? Ever wonder why on a quiet Sunday for example, we see stories about a fire in New York? Or a baby giraffe in a zoo in Japan stealing a visitor’s ice cream? Who cares? But hey, we’ve got dramatic footage so let’s make it important.

I’m not saying the media should have suppressed coverage of rioting ’cos it’s not a nice thing. I understand that no-one will buy a paper with the headline ‘Crowd in South Belfast Go About Their Business Peaceably!’. But I do question our, the public’s, desire for dramatic spectacle and the media’s enthusiasm for feeding our basest, voyeuristic appetites.

On a lighter note, Ardoyne Disney is definitely a goer. Everyone’s Snow White, there’s no shortage of kids to play the dwarves, the excuses are Mickey Mouse and when it comes to taking responsibility, no-one gives a Donald Duck.

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