Friday, 25 June 2010

Speech? Criticism? Er... oh look, a butterfly!

I've just read this post over at Tabloid Watch and was nearly moved to tears. This week Jamie Reed, MP for Copeland, Cumbria, made a speech in Parliament slamming the national media for its coverage of the recent shootings, with particular anger reserved for the journalists who personally turned up to trample on the grieving process of the families and wider community. The extracts picked out by Tabloid Watch form a very moving picture of the pain caused by such intrusions in the name of profit, as the bereaved and their neighbours and friends are hounded for stories, photographs and gossip by people who frankly don't give two shits about them, beyond their potential use to generate money.

We can all agree that such strategies are despicable - they quite obviously cause a great deal of unnecessary distress to those targeted. I'm sure most readers, given the choice, would rather forgo such snippets of information if they knew just what was done to obtain them. Yes, the news from Cumbria was interesting, but most people's tea-breaks would have been just as diverting if the space had been filled by some amusing PR piece about a pig in wellies. No less revenue would have been generated if all papers had told their staff to back off.

And yet, nothing is going to change. Reed's point has been made time and time again whenever there is a major tragic event. Hands are wrung, vague promises of more comprehensive voluntary ethical codes are made, only for the exact same thing to happen next time. So what's to be done?

First of all, the issue needs to be made public. So far, no national news outlet seems to have bothered reporting on Reed's speech. This is an elected representative, calling for a genuine improvement, in the institution dedicated to making such changes (not at a press-conference, media schmooze event, wire-tapped conversation to a colleague or any other of the less appropriate times when the media bother to actually listen to MPs). He is genuinely speaking on behalf of his constituents and he and they deserve to be heard.

So then, fellow dwellers of the blogosphere: pass it on.

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