Apparently, when the great and the good the boffins and the geeks, the beardies and the weirdies assembled the press to great fanfare and pomp to announce the results of a recent dig, they decided to do so in a long and drawn-out manner— the idea being to keep the world and its media on the edge of their seats and build the suspense to a Hitchcockian level. Unfortunately for them, by the time their little show had come to a climax and they were to actually, finally reveal their findings into whether or not the body underneath a car park in Leicester was indeed that of the much-maligned King Richard III of England (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) news events elsewhere had taken precedent and, by the wonders of modern electronic communication, the reporters and photographers, the news hounds and correspondents, the hacks and the monkeys had been ordered by their newsrooms to clear out and go cover the news that a prominent British politician had persuaded his wife to take the blame for a traffic misdemeanour, and to accept the penalty points for speeding. The news agenda had overtaken the professors in Leicester and they were rudely reminded that they, rather like this paragraph, had taken far too long to get to their point. When they were finally ready to reveal all, they had lost the attention of everyone save the man from Leicester Car Park Weekly and the reporter from Cockney Rhyming Slang Gazette. You might say they had Leicester talk to. Then again you might not.
You gotta feel sorry for them though. I’ve since heard many say that they should have front-loaded the announcement, should have got the important and relevant info up front to satisfy newspapers and The Daily Express alike. But what were the chances of their declaration of national importance being usurped by another in a long line of dodgy Liberal Democrat gaffes ? They felt they were safe with the only story in town to risk a long, drawn-out build-up.
There are some days when I watch the tv news at 5.00 am (I’ve told you about my sleep patterns, right ?) only to switch on the bulletin again at 10 o’clock that night and sit through exactly the same bulletin as I’d seen some 17 hours previously. The lead story on both would be a new Michael Gove initiative for schools, Scotland experiencing a cold snap, or something equally as riveting.
But this week is somehow different.
There are, very occasionally, times when I miss working in the news industry. Not often, just every now and then. This week would have to be one of those times. How much fun must it be to be in a newsroom at the moment ? Take this lunchtime’s T’BBC news broadcast, for example:
ITEM 1. Children in Lancashire (it’s in the north somewhere. Near the BBC, oddly) have been served up with horse meat in their cottage pies (a menu item which, for the foreign readers’ benefit, is a rite of passage for UK children of the lower classes.). This is one of those stories (like hospital killer bugs, foxes/dingos stole/ate my baby, or GangNam Style dancing by celebrities or sportsmen) that keep on giving and keep papers going to the real silly season starts (usually just after Easter Monday).
Imagine if there was horse meat served (gedditt?) at Wimbledon or Ascot Ladies’ Day how much hilarity would ensure ? [“News” editors are normally seconded from the Features Dept or the Fashion desk during Ladies’ Day when “Woman Wears Frock” suddenly becomes a news item. Real news men would be incapable of recognising great stories like that. Thank Buddah I was one of those men.]
ITEM 2. Oscar Pistorius weeps in court having been charged with murdering his model girlfriend (run VT of bikini shots), and confronted with the phrase “premeditated murder”. When this one broke in the early hours of the previous morning, the scuttlebutt was that dear, dear old Oscar mistook the missus for an intruder and, as is de rigueur in the “Rainbow” Nation, shot the shit of of him/her, preferring to ask questions later. However we are now told that Oscar and Reeva had a bit of previous on the domestic dust-up department, and therefore he’s been hauled up in front of the beak for planning the whole thing.
This is a huge story. Huge. Obviously not as huge as meat being found in a school meal, but large, nevertheless. I put it to you, more people in the world know of The Blade Runner than knew of OJ Simpson before he definitely didn’t kill his missus. Pistorius wins track races without legs. The world knows this and he is the face of Paralympic sport. OJ was a footballer. Or a Basketball player. We outside the States knew he was famous for something over there and went along with the furore and spectacle of CNN’s first live news story that didn’t involve watching huge cannon fire things into a desert, beautifully commentated on by Christianne Amanpour though it may have been.
The enduring image of the OJ Trial was of the
guilty party innocent man claiming proving for the cameras that some gardening gloves didn’t fit him. It’s gonna be a bit tougher for Oscar if he tries that defence with his lower limbs. (As a side note, I was told a good few years back by a sports journo that Pistorious was the most obnoxious, self-centred, arrogant man he’d ever met. That certainly doesn’t make him a murderer but may explain why he’s loved and admired all over South Africa.)
Back to the news.
ITEM 3. Coronation Street Star accused of 19 (count ’em) NINETEEN sex offences including raping a child, indecently assaulting a child and sexual activity with a child. A man who has starred on our screens, apparently, for 30 years is arrested for multiple sex offences comes in a poor third in the running order behind a Palamino Pasty and an accused without, frankly, a leg to stand on. We have become very blasé about sex offenders in this country. The Jimmy Savile and Gary Glitter cases seem to have dulled our senses to any more kiddy-fiddling stories (more of which later), and as famous as this latest bloke surely is in his native third world of Mancunia, he ain’t no Stuart Hall, allegedly. Or maybe he is. So third place he stays, behind the Paralympian and just ahead of:
ITEM 4: 950 injured as meteors crash to earth. I’m sorry, I’ll re-type that : 950 injured as meteors crash to earth. Yes, you read that right: Nine Hundred and Fifty. Injured by Meteors. METEORS. This isn’t a FOURTH story of the day. This is the stuff of Hollywood. This is some cock-awful dreadful movie starring Bruce Willis and Nick Cage (with, perchance, a cameo by Jude Law as a lump of moon rock) and Tom Wilkinson playing the retired Astronaut. I can see it now. Or rather I can’t. I couldn’t possibly. But you know what I mean. It’s made for filming. And whatever happens, it couldn’t possibly be a worse movie than Armadeddon (1988) Dir Michael Bay . Could it ? Really. But instead, like journalists in a Leicester car park we have to wade through all frippery of mass poisonings, celebrity murders and serial rapists before we get to the , ahem, meat of the matter which is THE WORLD IS BEING DESTROYED BY ASTEROIDS. Or something. A clue as to why this story was so far down the running order is to be found when you see that it all happened in the Urals. Fucking Russians. Fuck ’em. If it had happened in Bangladesh they would have hidden it between “Local Man Bitten By Local Dog, Locally” and “Mayor of London wins Rear of the Year”
So there you have it. Time your news conferences and special events carefully. In a busy week, you never know which story will hog all the coverage. What you think is earth-shattering news will be overtaken by events and quickly be forgotten. Just ask the scientists, still there talking in a Leicester car park. Or that ex-Hitler Youth, Peadophile Apologist who retired this week— he’s hardly had a look-in since.
See: You’ve forgotten him already !
Yes, it was Richard III. Please tell the world (unless you’ve already buggered off).