It was during the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami in 2004 that I first became acutely aware of rolling news. That constant rolling news footage beamed live into our living rooms from the disaster zone. I am sure it happened for Princess Diana’s death and funeral but I was living in Saudi Arabia then and things were a bit different. The Tsunami was something I had an attachment to, friends were missing. So I sat and watched news, pretty much constantly for days. Desperate for news, knowing that if there was anything it would be announced by the man on Sky long before any “official channel” reached us. This meant I, along with colleagues and friends of the two missing friends, didn’t leave our TVs for days.
Now when any world event happens we rush to our TVs for more information. No longer do we rely on newspapers, or the one nightly news bulletin for updates, in fact by the time they arrive now the news feels old. Especially if you have also been watching on social media too. Headlines in the paper are made up from the tweets you read the day before.
I watched in horror last week as news of a hostage situation unfolded in Australia. In fact as I was home and trying to distract myself from a pre-Christmas meltdown I turned on Sky News. Sure enough, there were reporters “on the front line”, albeit that front line was police tape at the end of the cordon. The same interview with a coffee shop employee was being played over and over again, in the lack of any other news. We knew there were hostages. We didn’t know how many. We were being told that there would be no guessing as to who the hostage taker was, nor his motives. But still the news cameras rolled. As it turned to night, still the cameras were there, with little else to report.
The cameras were still there when shots rang out. When the building was finally stormed by the police. Only then did Sky say they would cut the feed and run it on a 30 second delay. Why? What could we possibly learn from the news channels? Was it right that hostage taker’s every move was being broadcast to the world? Was that his intention? Rightly the news outlets that were contacted by the hostages on the say so of the hostage taker refused to broadcast the messages, but should they have stopped filming full stop?
We pretty much witnessed first hand those two hostages dying, and the hostage taker being killed. Why?
Yesterday in George Square an unimaginable event took place. As a bin lorry slammed into shoppers out Christmas shopping it was just minutes before amateur mobile phone footage appeared on the news, and then as reporters arrived we got first hand news as it happened. Bodies still lay in the road. Sheets doing little to shield prying eyes.
Do we really need to have rolling, ongoing, live footage from scenes of such disasters? I am seriously beginning to question if we really do. Is this what people call news fatigue? We get pulled into these news stories, they almost surround us, both on the news, on social media, in today’s newspapers when all we really need to know are the facts. And they are scant at the moment. Six people tragically lost their lives, it looks like eight are critically injured. That is all that matters.
It makes no difference if the driver had an epileptic fit or had a heart attack to anybody but the police investigating the incident, the families involved, including the poor driver, his employer and their insurance company presumably. Six people have lost their lives in the most tragic of circumstances and that figure may yet rise. Do we still need to have a reporter in Glasgow reporting from the scene?
I am seriously beginning to question it. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. Hell I care. A woman was mown down on Fleet High Street right in front of me a few years ago. I had stood in that spot less than five minutes before, and having agreed to meet in the coffee shop two doors up, my mother in law thought it was me under the red transit van. My mother in law and I remembered that moment last night and remember vividly how we felt for days after it. Our hearts broke for the families involved yesterday. So believe me, I do care about families caught up in the events of Glasgow and Sydney.
I care enough to think that maybe we should show our respects and not turn news into a spectator event.