Thursday, 21 August 2014

"Some viewers may find

the images in this story distressing."
I wonder how many times I have heard that warning on our international news service recently? It is good of SBS to warn viewers but I wonder how much it really means to viewers? There will be a few perhaps who think,
"Yes, that's real. Someone is out there being shot at or leaning out of a helicopter filming that or...."
I won't go on. It always scares me - and I have usually heard something about it before the story reaches the evening news.
I often wonder how many people realise that the news does not just magically appear. People have to go out and collect it. Collecting it can be dangerous, very dangerous. People die collecting the news.
I know a number of journalists. News collecting is an addiction for them. They are always on the hunt for the "big" story.
This does not mean that their lives are exciting, far from it. Their everyday working lives can be as tedious as the everyday working lives of anyone else. They are also under pressure - produce a piece and produce it now. There is no longer any old style journalism for these people. The digital age means it needs to go up rapidly. As one of them said to me, "You hope you have the facts right."
And there are familiar faces like John Simpson and Orla Guerin who seem to get around with ease and appear to have the ability to get an interview with anyone. That is so far from the reality that I still wonder how they manage to make it look easy. It isn't. It is dangerous. Both of them are lucky to be alive - and they know it.
More than seventy journalists lost their lives in war zones last year - just so the rest of us could feed our insatiable appetites for violent news. That's wrong.
Groups like the vile terrorists in the Iraq are becoming experts in manipulating the media - and media outlets allow them to do it. "If we don't tell it someone else will." They have viewer numbers to keep up so they can sell advertising and make money. Yes, that's a simplistic way of putting it but what we hear is based on the money to be made from it or the power to be gained from the message.
James Foley lost his life for this and more journalists will lose their lives before it ends - if it ever ends. Yes, he knew the risks he was taking. The question is whether the rest of us do or do we just look on the story as distressing us?

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