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Hurt

The following is finding its voice as a blog post because it can’t stay in my head a moment longer.

Once, I wanted to be journalist. Today, I am glad that never happened. Today, I have been sickened and hurt by the media in this country.

A terrible thing happened on a street in Woolwich, London yesterday afternoon. I am not going to repeat what happened because, thanks to the media deluge, you probably know. What concerns me first and foremost is that whilst the professional media sharks (apparently driven in an unthinking, animal way desperate to compete with social media) go into a frenzy of feeding the public with graphic images, speculation and eye-witness reports: a young man was murdered. That’s the first thing, the last thing and really, the everything about this story.

What in the world has happened to us. How have we allowed ourselves to be so drawn in by horror? A young man has been killed, as yet without a name, but somewhere his family and loved ones are not being spared a thing. No detail is too awful or horrific to share and pick over. A young man, who happened to be a soldier has been appropriated as symbol, first by his attackers and then perpetuated in the media. When he pulled on his Help for Heroes t-shirt yesterday he was just a young man, living his life. He was not living as a symbol of the state and to force that onto his memory within an hour of his death only feeds into the very ideology that seems to cause so much hate and suffering in the world.

It is said that the political message of the perpetrators makes the act one of terrorism. Terror. That is, to create terror in a community, in society. The most effective way to create the terror is if you can get the print media, following hard-on-the-heels of the knee-jerk reactions posted all over the social media networks, to scare and sicken people with their words and their pictures the following day. Blood on their hands is a graphic enough image in words; I will never understand the need for it on the front page. According to this piece by Roy Greenslade, only the Daily Express refrained. Be warned if you click through to the Greenslade post, you will see the blood. I am sure you have done so already. I was trying to avoid it, but it has been unavoidable and I had the image planted in my head overnight. It disturbed my sleep. I do not pray, but I hope that the young victim’s family have been protected. Roy Greenslade says something like, newspaper editors would have looked stupid if they had not published images that were already in the public domain. Is that their main concern? Whether they look stupid? Or is the truth of it, that no matter what the potential hurt, harm and damage, the market always rules; that if one editor is printing, the others follow suit because of sales. In the internet world, the image was old news by this morning anyway, but it was none the less shocking. The image is everywhere. I cannot even get into an email account without it being on the landing page. Newspaper editors did not reveal a truth to us in their papers today; neither have they informed us. All they have done is given a physical manifestation to the most graphic image of hate I have ever seen in my whole life.

Roy Greenslade had these papers with their front pages on his breakfast table this morning. It is no surprise his eldest grandson commented on it. The thought of a newspaper man eating breakfast over such an image… consuming the news product along with toast… words fail me. Perhaps they turned the page… folded it shut… Yesterday’s news. My children will not be taken near a news stand until the papers come, if not to their senses, to some common denominator of decent humanity, which, for all its positive traits, social media never can.

The men that murdered that young man yesterday, were filled with hatred, that much is self-evident. They are not my concern. The young man and his family are. The frightened people in the same street yesterday are. All I can say about the two men, is that with their actions they only represented themselves, their own beliefs. Even if they followed an ideology external to themselves, they took it upon themselves and acted upon it. They do not ‘belong’ to any thing, or any one, other than themselves. They defy categorisation, speculation and they should never have been given the front pages to strike fear and discord into the hearts of the wider community. What purpose those images may serve for unknown others with hate in their hearts does not bear thinking about.

At this point, it is worth mentioning another forgotten victim of hate crime. Earlier this month in Birminghan a seventy-five year old man, originally from Pakistan, who walked with a stick, was stabbed to death. That crime too was horrific. That crime also involved a knife and blood. I never read a thing about it at the time, let alone on the front page of a national newspaper. Yesterday’s victim came out of the barracks, the Birmingham victim came out of a mosque. Yesterday’s perpetrators were black, the one in Birmingham was white. Victims and their assailants come in all colours and creeds. That is not the issue. Hate is the issue. Everything else is just an excuse. We can only counter hate with love. What love did the newspaper editors show the world this morning in their own private race not to look ‘stupid’? When I pass a road accident, I look away. Today the newspapers were the drivers of the tour bus and they did a slow drive by on an unedifying, unilluminating but visceral story about a human tragedy.

Hold the front page

I’ve been looking at the UK newspaper industry over my cup of tea this morning and it is quite an interesting read.

Of course, the paper versions of the newspapers are pretty much on their knees now, more especially the broadsheets, whose daily newspaper market share is pathetic. It has even been called, by someone I know under the aegis of Viscount R, vanity publishing.

It is, I think, more than this. The dailies operate partly as the shop window for the online businesses which are pretty much rampant, as compared to their old-fashioned country cousins. For example, the Guardian which struggles to shift just under 300,000 copies, has recorded 37 million unique user hits on its website last December; a trend that is followed by the other daily organs’ sites. It is worth noting though, that the more hard copies you shift, the less hits on your site: The Sun’s circulation is a little shy of the 3 million mark, but in hits on its website, in the same month as the Guardian’s 37 million, it only received 8 million.

So globally, it would be fair to argue, the Guardian is doing better than the Sun? Well that’s a relief maybe…

Whilst less and less of us buy or read a paper, more and more of us get our news from the web. But what is that news? Are we getting what we ask for? The Guardian attributed some of their big hit figures to their coverage at the end of last year of a climate conference – so people are turning to the virtual page that interests them.

Yet, the press media, still shapes the news, in a way one could consider disproportionate if you consider the fact that most of us (more than 80%) don’t read them. I loved the recent political limbo period whilst the political parties sorted out the future government. There we had a distilled moment, where the printed press and its televisual and online brethren had to wait on the real life power players of the piece. Those hacks and their owners (let us not forget the inflated egos of the press barons for one minute in all this) had to wait. And wait. And to me that was quite perfect: Alistair Campbell and Adam Wotnot from Sky reduced to a near scuffle such did their impotence in really important matters frustrate them.

The printed press has a place in our lives, even if it is a shop window for their websites, but why should we expect their news to be any more wholesome than Nestle? They are businesses the same. For me, the key difference is the newspapers’ owners have a power play to make for and against other protagonists. Men who like to needle others and remind them of their place. Straightforward investigation and exposure “in the public interest” is in very short supply. We are treated to exposes and lowdown dirt that is neither, but, in the case of the tabloids boosts circulation and in the instance of the broadsheet serves their reputations.

Reading the news at breakfast has always given you grubby hands and some things never change.

Consumption

No I haven’t got TB! I did make a to-die-for damson tart thing but the stoning didn’t go too well. I managed to poke out four stones with a skewer but the intact damson to waste ratio was about 1:5 and it was too depressing. I googled the problem but what I needed was a cherry stoner. I have never heard of one, let alone seen one – so I took the pragmatic approach and cooked them in all their good potential-for-choking-on-a-stone glory. Truly delicious! Fortunately trying not to crack teeth on a stone was only a minor inconvenience. I did wonder what Michel Roux would have had to say about it though…

Anyway, I woke up this morning with stuff on my mind.

and

except that I think both are wrong.

What made me think of it was the news that some thinktank are proposing that there should be more environmental taxes , basically rising from about 7% (of total taxation I presume) to around 30% in the future. Maybe I am missing something, but would not a more effective solution be to consume a lot less, rather than pay through the nose to consume more? The whole economy seems underpinned on excessive consumption yet technology offers a way to consume with less impact. Take for instance the whole BBC online content argument and the fact that the daily newspapers are struggling to make ends meet. This industry and discussion reminds me of nothing more than old stags (with bits of fur hanging off) clashing antlers somewhere on a wild moor. Do the kids buy papers, I don’t think they do. They are happy to get their “news” online, onphone, onthebus, or wherever they are. Whilst the Press Barons bemoan their lot, the rest of the world are getting on with consuming information without the need for using paper and oil in production and distribution, and like dinosaurs (sorry to mix the animal similes and metaphors) they and their paper-based news need to either evolve (and fast) or become extinct.

I know that this is not a terribly fully-formed thought but it’s mine and I needed to pop it out there before I could “carry on”!

P.S. The Liverpool fan came out of the cupboard under-the-stairs in time to take his place at Anfield yesterday. The vacancy was swiftly filled by the Gooner, who is sobbing like a baby as I type.

They shall remain nameless

They shall remain nameless