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Why hospital live report just made me sick

Antrim A & E last week reported a sharp rise in the number of journalists waiting to be seen by staff at the hospital.

Many languished on soft seats in corridors for hours, hoping for a televised interview, a one-on-one, off-camera or even just a pithy soundbite, to ease their agony.

It’s been a busy week for news stories. While the Italians tried to salvage some pride after their suddenly infamous sea captain conformed completely to the national stereotype by (allegedly) jumping ship and then bleating excuses afterwards, a 21-year-old woman became the youngest Briton to ski to the South Pole (do the words “who, heck, the” and “cares” spring to anyone else’s mind?) and in Derry some so-called dissidents plotted to blow up the tourist office in a bid to encourage people to listen to their point of view about freedom.

Heroism, bravery, cowardice — all the big concepts were under the microscope this week. And our media were there to cover the events as they unfolded. Live.

Maybe I’ve ranted about this before, but am I the only person puzzled by tv news’ obsession with reporting “live” on news stories? It began a few years ago — perhaps when technology made it relatively cheaper to send outside broadcast facilities Hither and Thither (if you don’t recognise those as place names, it’s cos I took them off the BBC NI Weather map which likes to put up the obscurest of locations, just to show they care about the culchies and aren’t just a bunch of city-slickers).

I can understand the relevance of reporting live from an event, where something is actually happening.

Or even from the scene of an event that’s already happened — to give a flavour of the atmosphere.

But to “go live” to a reporter outside a hospital A&E department to discuss a situation that isn’t going anywhere, seems at best daft and at worst, a waste of time and money.

It’s winter. It’s cold. It’s dark early. So now, instead of really listening to what said correspondent is saying, one is busy looking at the poor critter shiverin’ in the Baltic conditions and wonderin’ how long it might be before she ends up needing the services of the very A&E she’s standing outside!

If we need to see the hospital in the report, just to reinforce, for those who need pictures as well as words, that the story is about that big place you go when you’re sick, then grand, do it during the day and show it later on the news.

Doing it live at half six, in the dark, adds nothing but irritation for the viewer.

So much of news now seems caught between wanting to be serious and knowing it has to “entertain” at some level.

Have our attention spans shrunk so much that we need the inducement of “live” reports to keep us loyal? And does that tactic even work?

“Let’s cross live now to our reporter outside a downtown hostelry. So, reporter, what’s the opinion of people on the street?”

“Well, cosy smug git in studio, I asked a range of three people what they thought about us going live and they said, “Wha’?” So there you have it. Back to you in the studio.”

Oh right, I take it all back. That was amazing. Can’t wait to see it again.

Belfast Telegraph