Saturday 22 May 2021

The power of the media

to destroy relationships and lives with so-called "human interest" stories has been highlighted yet again by the findings into the inquiry about the way the BBC and a certain "journalist" covered  an interview with Princess Diana.

It is an interview which should never have taken place. It is a program which should never have been aired. 

This is also true of a great many other "human interest" and "in the public interest" stories covered by the media. It should be of no interest to the rest of us how Melinda and Bill Gates part company or divide up their wealth. We have no right to know the details of other divorce proceedings. 

We most certainly have no right to know that some public figure's child has been caught speeding. A lot of people get caught speeding. It isn't of any "human interest" simply because someone is "X's" child.

People who have not had parents in public positions seem to find that difficult to understand. Those of us who have do understand. 

As kittens my siblings and I understood this all too well. We couldn't put a paw out of line without everyone in the district knowing we had done it. We were always under pressure to perform not just well but extremely well in school. We were expected to be role models for every other child in the district. Even when we came back to the city the pressure was there because the Senior Cat was so well known in education circles.

"Oh, you're the Senior Cat's daughter/son?" someone would say and things would change subtly. 

We had the added burden of being our paternal grandfather's children too.  He was so well known and so highly respected that it was expected his very upright Presbyterian behaviour and attitudes had somehow rubbed off onto us.

It still happens. Yesterday I saw someone just old enough to be my father. I have not seen this man for years. He recognised me rather me recognise him. He came up to me while I was waiting for a train. There was someone else with him and he introduced me as, "Cat is X's daughter and Y's granddaughter." 

Yes, I am but I am me too. I didn't say anything. It would have been impolite but I thought of that last night as I heard Prince William and Prince Harry saying how much that interview had hurt their mother, hurt them and the family. There was no "public interest" in what was done. It was done to deliberately damage not just one person but an entire family. 

I know there are many people who are opposed to the monarchy and they would see something like this as "justified" because of it. No, it isn't. Nothing justifies trying to deliberately destroy someone else or to cause harm. No "story" or "scoop" is justified if it is simply designed to cause hurt - and that one was. 

There is too much of that sort of thing. Real news is much harder to find. Reporting it in a balanced way is harder still. We might be much better off if people who want to be journalists recognised that.

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