Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The press: scaremongering knobfloggers

Yesterday I reported a minor scare on a bus near King's Cross with the headline "Again?" - a tad premature as it turned out to be little more than a small fire (which happen all the time on London's rather crappy busses), but I at least had the excuse that no news organisation had, at the time I put up the post, got any information about it. Within half an hour, the all clear had been given - as I reported - and everyone got back to going about their business as the two roads which had been closed as a precaution were re-opened.

So, how do we get from "Small fire on bus causes minor concern for half an hour" into The Mirror's alarmist headline PASSENGERS FLEE IN TERROR FROM 'BOMB BUS'? Or, indeed, the London Evening standard's (print only) NEW TERROR ALERT SEALS OFF LONDON?

What's wrong with, erm... you know - not spreading fear and panic further than necessary? Why not - perhaps - report what actually happened without exaggeration? Especially considering that you had plenty of time to find out what the real story was before going to press? Perhaps you'd like to take a leaf out of The LA Times' book, with their infinitely more accurate headline London Blames Engine Fire for Smoke on Bus?

I'll tell you why they don't curb their alarmism - because fear sells. Terror sells.

My daily readership figures have doubled since I liveblogged the 7th and 21st July terror attacks. It's likely that newspaper circulation has gone up significantly as well. Add to that the fact that parliament's in recess, we've got tit all to write about other than terrorism.

And to continue to attract the readers, headlines need to lure them in. Had I titled this post "A thought about something that happened yesterday" it's likely fewer people would be lured in than have been by the use of the wonderful word "knobfloggers" (I'm rather proud of that one - came up with it before any coffee or alcohol as well...). Likewise, the press need to shock, scare, and intrigue to con us into forking out fifty pence for their poorly-produced rags. (At least you can read my turgid shite for free...)

The impact of all this? Terror lingers. Fear is revived. We continue to worry about more attacks (helped by the constant demands that we shit ourselves daily coming from the head of the Metropolitan Police). We fail to get back to our normal lives. And the terrorists have achieved another small victory.

We've already had this debate, but I fear that in the wake of London's latest scrape with homicidal idiots it's going to run and run. (Personally I'm more scared of being stabbed by some idiot while out with the missus than I am of terrorists, but maybe that's just me and the readers of the Daily Mail...)

6 Comments:

Blogger The Antagonist said...

So, how do we get from "Small fire on bus causes minor concern for half an hour" into The Mirror's alarmist headline PASSENGERS FLEE IN TERROR FROM 'BOMB BUS'? Or, indeed, the London Evening standard's (print only) NEW TERROR ALERT SEALS OFF LONDON?

In much the same way as we get from a power surge on the Underground to an international terrorist man-hunt?

8/03/2005 01:19:00 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Oh, for fuck's sake. What kind of "power surge" would reduce tube carriages to scrap metal and simultaneously mash an entire bus that wasn't connected to the power supply like a beer can? I saw through the power surge nonsense in about thirty seconds on the day. According to London Underground's managing director, the network control room first knew of the attack when the train drivers used the tunnel phone lines to cut the traction power off; some nameless PR man answered a journo's phone call with the "power surge".

GROW UP.

8/03/2005 01:42:00 pm  
Blogger Eric S said...

FOUND: Tinfoil hat, inside label reads "The Antagonist". To claim, contact Broadmoor Mental Hospital immediately.

8/03/2005 02:19:00 pm  
Blogger The Antagonist said...

Alex - At least have the courtesy to get your facts straight.

The bus didn't "simultaneously mash" at the same time as the trains. In fact, according to the original reports on 7/7, the Underground trains didn't "simultaneously mash" either.

The bus went bang almost 90 minutes after the incident on the trains and, as such, should be treated as an entirely separate occurrence to that which occurred on the trains.

Eric - keep the hat, see if it helps you any.

8/03/2005 02:42:00 pm  
Anonymous -ronnie in new orleans- said...

Is "Engine Fire" yet another branch of Al Queada??

When will this stop??

8/03/2005 05:25:00 pm  
Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

Curious Hamster wrote well on this.

8/03/2005 09:10:00 pm  

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