As there is an intermittent debate over media ethics in this country, might we reflect on the following?
The story of the missing Malaysian plane is an unimaginable nightmare for the relatives of those on the plane. Nobody knows what has happened. And after almost two weeks nobody seems any closer to knowing. Yet thanks to 24-hour news coverage the non-developing story apparently has to go somewhere. The media have nothing to report, yet have to keep making news.
On Wednesday, there were scuffles in Malaysia with some relatives of the missing passengers. A family member was knocked to the floor in the media scrum and the BBC, Sky and everybody else was there to cover it. In the melee of cameras, shifting like a rugby scrum, Kay Burley of Sky – among others – unwittingly demonstrated the fantastical depths to which this has all sunk (see above):
‘I’m running up the escalator now’ Kay Burley told viewers, before helpfully explaining, ‘to try to get to the top.’ Why? ‘So that we can bring you these pictures.’ Of what? Of camera-crews pushing relatives of missing passengers and each other around?
I ask this completely frankly: is there anything we can do to stop this? I know people will say there is a public interest in the story, and some will say that the press are keeping the story alive (as though the relatives of people on the flight might otherwise just forget all about it). But for the rest of us, can we just say that in fact we don’t want this? Yes we want news updates. But what we don’t want is news reporters jostling relatives or hurtling after each other in packs down distant corridors to bring us a non-update on a story which will only actually update itself at some point far beyond the media’s control? I suppose the answer is no, but is there any chance of 24-hour rolling news being rolled back a little?
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