I’ve lost complete days of productivity to breaking news stories since I started working at home.
I was consumed by the Labor leadership spill when Julia Gillard became Prime Minister. I was gripped with helplessness during the January 2011 floods in Queensland. And I kept one distracted eye on the recent Tropical Cyclone Yasi as it unfolded.
My interest is human; it’s wishing I could help. If I’m honest, it’s partly that feeling of needing to know.
But it’s also more objective. I love to see how things are reported, how the journalists tackle the story and the news angles used. I have a smattering of media junkie in me.
At about lunchtime today I thought the same was going to happen. Suddenly my Twitter stream was filled with news of today’s horrendous Christchurch earthquake. After following online for a short while, I switched on the news.
I tried both Channel 9 and the ABC. Both were using the TV3 feed from New Zealand. It was raw footage. As it turns out, very very raw.
After watching for a few minutes, I had to turn it off. It felt like voyeurism, not news. Too much personal pain and confusion and it was not necessary for me to see it… for the sake of people’s dignity and privacy, not just because of my sensibilities.
It was totally raw and unedited and therefore intensely personal. We saw images of people being extracted from a collapsed building in real time. Do we need to ‘be there’ to that degree? I think not.
I was not alone in my view. Just a few of the comments on Twitter included:
@dellvink – These pictures need to be edited. No need for them to be live. There are too many graphic pics. @ABCTV_Australia
@ZucchiniBikini – It’s positively voyeuristic, in my view.
@KarenCollum More like shock reality TV than news.
@maungle it’s not really news we are getting – it’s just horrific footage
@ruddygood – Will the media take note? My Twitter feed is telling — this unedited graphic coverage is NOT what people want. Sensitivity & dignity, please
On the flip side, one New Zealander reminded me that people with friends and family they could not contact may find it useful as they try to find out something, anything. A traumatic way to see a loved one, but there is a point there.
I find this fascinating, especially in light of the well-regarded flood coverage of a month ago. Was the live coverage then appreciated, even lauded, because it was mostly water we were looking at? By contrast, in Christchurch we were seeing traumatised people in intensely personal images.
News coverage may have exceeded public appetite this time. What do you think? Do you believe the media will take note of the people switching off and change the way they report? Or is the media machine too far down the road of real time, unedited, coverage at all costs?
PS – I watched a small part of the 6pm news on Channel 9 this evening and found it was much more my definition of news, packaged and telling us what was going on. The dilemma for news people has to be telling the story first versus telling it right.
* My post’s title, while of course Skyhooks lyrics, was used today on Twitter by @ZucchiniBikini to very aptly describe the live coverage of the Christchurch earthquake.