Tuesday, 15 December 2009

"This is bigger than climate change. It is a battle to redefine humanity etc"

Over the past month, I've been swamped with an amount of work befitting a full-time paper collector who enjoys stacking lined A4 with meaningless alien scribbles next to his desk in an attempt to absorb the information without actually reading it. As a result of this, I haven't read a single newspaper that didn't have an exclamation mark or "HORROR" written as the headline. I'd like to say that I was artistically "slumming it". The truth is, the Sun was readily available at work in the staff room and it was easy to read at the same time as checking my emails on my horrible, awful, hateful Mobile phone and eating pasta carbonara. I'm a terrible student journalist.

It's not all bad though. When I had time, I glanced at the Guardian's twitter updates. Once or twice I even clicked on their homepage to see if I'd missed out on a world-changing event. The weird thing is that no matter what day I checked it on, nothing seemed to have gone on. Do you ever get the feeling that sometimes news stories are hysterical ways of saying "nothing much happened today"?

Wait, no, I'm pretty sure i don't mean that. I'm just suffering from complete news fatigue. When you study the news as part of your everyday work, look at it, really look at it, the way the news is written starts looking very similar. This is obviously to do with the standards journalists have to use when writing news stories - I don't suppose the public would be very happy if they started reporting forest fires with witty panache. It just feels slightly disconcerting when you've slept for 4 hours and you're back in front of a screen and George Monbiot's saying something about global warming. He's always saying something about global warming. If I'm not mistaken, he's always saying the same thing about global warming. "The climate denial industry is out to dupe the public. And it's working", "The one thing depleting faster than oil is the credibility of those measuring it". I'm not having a go, I'm just confused and bewildered. I care about the environment, and due to my horrendously hypochondriatic nature, I worry about everything all the time, from house fires to getting little bits of dust in my tea (one of my greatest fears), but he somehow seems to make me care less about the biggest threat to humanity since the Ice Age or the invention of saturated fat. I no longer care about the Copenhagen Conference - as far as I'm concerned it couldn't have come at a worse time. I had three major deadlines and Christmas was so bloody near I could smell the Parmesan roast potatoes and chestnut stuffing (I'm cooking Christmas Dinner this year, a task I have been planning for since October. Holidays are Comin', Holidays are Comin'...). There was no time for me to get increasingly worried and write a ridiculously tears-in-eyes fists-to-the-sky monolith of a blog post about it. I simply missed it. And the world did not end.

I know it's in my negative nature to constantly look for the worst possible outcome at all times, but my work recently made me see something. After all the work you do writing a perfect article, how many people go on to read it? How many people notice the hard work you put in? And how long does it take them to forget about it? It's not like journalists are out there writing seminal novels every day, these talented wordsmiths (urgh, I hate that term) spend agonising hours picking the best possible words to convey their point, only to have them scanned briefly on the tube and then discarded by a person who has to now get on with 'real life'. It's somewhat INCREDIBLY DEPRESSING, don't you think? Of course some journalists get to compile their articles in books, ready to be bought by rabid fans. By 'some journalists' I mean 'Charlie brooker'. Who isn't even a journalist, if you think about it. I only started thinking about this because of research I was doing on the 'fade effect', a phenomenon used as a defense in court by newspapers who print too much information about criminals who have yet to be fully charged with any conviction. Basically, the thought behind it is that the public consume news, but then instantly forget it. Basically, newspapers are like a temporary entertainment form for us shumbling sniffy bipeds, giving us something to read on the way to work. As soon as we have to get on with something real, we forget most of the details. This of course isn't particularly true in cases where you actively care about a story or issue, but you're unlikely to begin rallying troops for a campaign group against a common crook. Whether or not they were found guilty yet. Unless you're writing on CiF. but that's a whole 'nuther rant altogether.

I'm looking forward to sitting down on Sunday and having the time to read an entire Observer. I'm hoping to get back into the swing of reading the news. it's ever so distressing to live in constant belief that you're having Deja Vu, when all you're actually doing is picking out an inverted pyramid rather than taking in any information. Ooh look, "Petrol prices Push Up Inflation". What a gem. I shall write a personal email to the journalist who created this story and commend them for picking such descriptive language.

Kidding. I don't compliment people. Jesus, where have you been?


Jamrock said...

I like this. I largely don't care for newspapers after witnessing some news events first hand and then incredulously reading the news about the event.

It's not that newspapers tell lies it's that they tell a partial truth. All the time.

I just can't beleive anyhting I read I don't beleive the detail of anything I read. I beleive what I see only. If I read something, say something that happens in Iraq, I know 'something happened' and that posssibly 'some' of the detail will be true but quite likely not.

Mostly though I just liked your article. I believe EVERYTHING you say because you made me Christmasy. In November.

TheUnwashedMass said...

With regard to the "Wordsmith" thing, I was wondering what might be a suitable alternative? Wordwright? Lord/Lady of Letters? Text-Ninja? Prose-Pirate?

I'd rather be a prose-pirate, buckling swash on the literary seven seas than a wordsmith wheezing some ancient authorial-bellows in a dusty forge.

I've always been fond of the screenwriting term "Script-Doctor" n'all.

Bailey's Beads said...

Most British Newspapers are screaming tabloids. It's a culture shock every time I visit the country haha.

Katie said...

Prose Pirate.
Now this is a term I love.

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