Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Breaking News

The first recession of the 24 hour news era allows us to see just what the media can do with a good old-fashioned crisis. I admit that, like so many others, I have been glued to the TV screen during recent weeks watching marble-faced markets collapse with all the resistance of polythyrene. But the need for constant breaking news, constant comment, constant speculation has brought its fair share of good, old-fashioned nonsense.

The other day I was half watching News 24 whilst doing something important like playing spider solitaire when the red banner "Breaking News" started flashing on the screen. TV is quite skilled in using the "Breaking News" approach to capture your attention and, like the stark reality of a Soho strip club, the eventual product is never as exciting as the glossy headline. In this case the screen eventually changed to "Breaking News : New York Stock Exchange Closes". Granted, it would have been breaking news if the Exchange had closed because the stock prices had collapsed so far as to finish off global capitalism, but in this case the Exchange had closed because it was the end of the days' trading.

And then you have the "experts" they drag on screen to fill a quiet ten minutes or so. The quality of such expertise can be judged by the fact that a couple of years ago, some poor taxi driver - who had simply gone to Television Centre to collect a fare - was dragged in front of the cameras by mistake and interviewed for ten minutes on the latest Microsoft operating system. A few days ago there was an "employment expert" commenting on the impact of the current crisis who actually came out with the following : "It's possible that over 50s will be subject to increased discrimination in the down-turn. There is no evidence, but it is possible". Yes, it is possible, just as it is possible that the moon is made of green cheese. There is no evidence, but it is possible.

Finally, in this little selection, there was a so-called "Bank Economist" (can such things really exist given what has happened over recent weeks) who said "We will get through the current crisis, I'm almost sure of that". Almost sure?. Well, that's comforting.

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