As part of my job as a journalist, I subscribe to and read a lot of news sources. These range from corporate, legal and governmental to straightforward news. As you would expect plenty of this is pretty tedious, but as you will doubtless see most mornings if you follow me on Twitter having the time to keep up to date with what’s going on in the world is often interesting, entertaining and informative.
It doesn’t matter whether you take much of an interest in celebrity culture or not: if you’re reading this, you’ll be aware that the heir to the throne is to marry his university sweetheart later this month. Hey, good for him. It’s always nice when people fall in love, at least for the two people involved. Personally I’m just pleased he held off until 2011: as he is a mere twelve days younger than me, although you couldn’t tell from his thinning hair, Prince William’s personal milestones have tended to overshadow mine in the national press. Whatevs bitch, I bet you never wore fairy wings on your 21st. Anyway, the increasingly tabloid tactics of the national press have seen a swathe of utterly pointless stories, at least one a day for the past couple of weeks. Gasp! William’s not going to wear a wedding ring! Sigh! Kate can’t decide whether to wear her hair up, or down! And don’t get me started about the Wills-and-Kate-themed confections my favourite cupcake blogs have been digging up for my delectation and, okay, derision. It’s enough to put me off baked goods
for life until all this is over until lunchtime.
It’s become a bit of a morning game for me – what’s the most ridiculous non-story I can find to sneer over with my colleague today? I don’t mind if that’s what people want to read, and therefore what the papers want to write about. I might not understand it, but there are plenty of things I don’t understand – why hipster kids want to mock some thirteen-year-old who recorded a song that clearly wasn’t aimed at people like us, or why more people don’t see My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding as a steaming racist crock of shit. Plus I had my own magazine once and I understand how difficult it can be to fill space (although online media really doesn’t have this excuse). You’ve got to pander to the advertisers, cash in on the national mood. Which depends on your definition of ‘national’ though, I suppose – while the English and, if the blogs are to be believed, Americans might be hyperventilating over the prospect of tantrums and tiaras, north of the border we’ve always had a much more pragmatic outlook.
Anyway. Yesterday I came across a press release from the Met Office, the UK’s national weather service, which made me giggle. ROYAL WEDDING WEATHER! it proclaimed, before going on to admit that:
Although it is currently too early to provide a detailed forecast for the day itself, the Met Office has taken a look back at historical data for the 29 April and previous Royal Wedding days.
So. Public body churns out news release which does not actually contain news. This is not of itself a bad thing. I have worked in marketing. This is what marketing departments do: hone in on the zeitgeist, find an angle on which to generate some good publicity for the company, churn out a cheesily-worded document which will then be promptly ignored by any news outlet worth its salt.
Here is the general rule: if your release does not contain news or new information, it is not a news story for a reputable news source.
Unless, evidently, you are the BBC.
I am a staunch defender of our public service broadcaster, but if this is what I pay my license fee for then I don’t know what else to say.
Call it an overreaction, but as somebody with personal experience of what a struggle it is to find a job in this industry I feel cheated and nauseated.
ETA: Oh, okay, music blog angle: have some Emmy the Great, with new song “Mistress England”.