News?

26 10 2011

Queen and Prince Phillip, 1954 visit to Australia photo credit: State Records NSW

I am a bit of a news junky. I think it makes me feel up to date.

On top of that, having studied communications at university, I tend to have opinions on what constitutes “news” and how it is presented. Yes, Media Watch, a program that critiques news presentations, is aimed at people like me.

Watching more than one news bulletin a day means my “compare and contrast” function is on full. I know when one station reports different statistics to another. I know who is focussing on what I call “real news” (what is going on in the world that has major implications either here or abroad) and who is focusssed on “soft news”. While the old saying “if it bleeds, it leads” still holds true, it is now supplemented by “if we have decent footage, it’s in”. And hence a run-of-the-mill car crash in Sydney will be played in news broadcasts across the country, because they have good footage of it. Never mind that it has little relevance in any other city, nor that there may be other more catastrophic car crashes have happened locally.

My other pet hate is media releases that make it as news. Now while this is particularly prevalent in newspapers, it happens on TV news as well. Somebody’s medical research that may lead to a cure for something – media release. They aren’t saying it will or can cure the disease. They are promotion the research laboratory. And often it isn’t new research anyway. Fundraising efforts for worthy causes – no matter how worthy the cause – are not news.

Which brings me to the Queen. I will declare my prejudices up front:
1. I fail to see the relevance of the royal family to Australia today. Get over it people, it is time to fly the parental nest. We should be a republic by now – our historic connection to the UK is not relevant to our existenace today. I say this as a former ten pound Pom.

2. I have no problem with the Queen, Prince Phillip and assorted hangers-on touring the country. I don’t even mind having expensive receptions for them as visiting heads of state. I fail to see, however, why we should be paying for their tour. They are very wealthy people.

However, back to the news. I can just about tolerate the blow by blow coverage of the Queen touring the country. After all, if it were Obama touring, we would expect to see it as well. However, keep it brief.

My big issue though, is the amount of “news” time given over to watching the Queen accept bouquets from 8 year old girls, and discussions about whether a bow, a bob, a nod or a curtsey is the appropriate greeting for someone who has educated themselves and worked hard to get where they are, to greet someone was lucky enough to be born into the right family. And secondly, why do we then compare this tour to footage of her previous visits? Why is this news? Why is it news about what she did in 1954 when she visited?

If the networks want to compare this royal tour with other royal tours, then make a documentary and show it separately. Don’t cut into my news time with this irrelevant drivel.

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