February 12th, 2007


sneezy birds

I've found myself becoming increasingly annoyed with the media over the past few weeks. I've always found the media annoying in a sort of low-level background hum kind of a way but recently it's been getting worse. It started with the Suffolk murders just before Christmas when I noticed what I thought was a reporter deliberately trying to annoy the Senior Investigating Officer during a press conference. Then there was the circus that descended on Birmingham during the latest round of anti-terrorism arrests. And now it's bird flu.
For those of you on the other side of the Duckpond, a week or so ago H5N1 was found among turkeys at a turkey farm in Suffolk. Although considering the number of birds involved `farm' sounds rather inadequate. `Turkey factory' might be a better term. Anyway, 160,000 birds had to be destroyed.
Bogna and I were out when the story broke, but when we got back and I saw it on the telly I was struck by how little panic there was. Everything seemed calm and straightforward, and I thought that, having lived with the prospect of N1 for a couple of years, we could all be mature about it.
But it seems to me that the media, and especially the rolling news, have been intent on picking and prying at this story to try and manufacture a panic, to the extent that when, over the weekend, there were reports that sales of turkey products in the shops had finally started to fall and some stores might be thinking of removing them from their shelves, I thought I saw a tiny spark of triumph in the newsreaders' eyes. I almost imagined some news writer punching the air and shouting, "Yes! Result!" Now, of course, they can run interviews with concerned farmers and with microbiologists telling us not to panic. And so the story rolls on.
I'll grant you, this is my own take on it and I do tend to look at the media with a jaundiced eye - although, as befits my trade, I tend to be more cynical about print journalism - but I think I've noticed a trend in rolling news to either beef up a story or give it a couple of days' extra legs. They don't seem to be lying or manufacturing, but they do seem to be massaging, and I find that worrying.
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