When is news not news? When it’s bullshit.

Tiger Woods’ stupid face looks out at me from three different media outlets right now. A massive picture of his eyes desperately trying to express something similar to emotion at the top of the front page of this morning’s paper, through the TV’s replay of the press conference and from my computer because I’ve just logged onto Hotmail. For a man shovelling his way through a second helping of sweet, sweet humble pie he sure is everywhere. It’s not as if he had a thousand microphones thrust into his face though. Members of the press did not surround him, flashing their cameras and shouting questions. He was stood in front of a blue curtain talking to a small room with two cameras in them. That didn’t stop the TV crews though, no. They were all camped outside looking like the place cables go to die. As I watch, a woman talks to the camera while walking sideways detailing how many vans there are. She actually trips over some wires as she speaks. At no point does a cameraman throw the camera down and shout ‘what in god’s name are we doing here?’ It’s weird.

The mass retardation doesn’t end there (it never ends) because CNN have to have three hours constantly analysing every minute detail of a golfer talking in front of a curtain. Sports analysts were asked what every word he said meant. Body language experts (a job about as useful as Anne Frank’s drum-kit – ‘Tony Blair’s body language might reveal he’s lying!’ Oh really? A Politician?) were called in to discuss the way his finger moved. No really. Then we skip off to that gremlin that’s been impersonating Larry King for the last few years to chat about it a bit more. Therein a therapist warns it will take about 3-5 years to cure his sexual addiction (he’s not addicted! He’s just horny!) and the only bit of sense comes from an NBA star I know nothing about who says almost apologetically, can’t he just get back to playing golf?

It’s not just dumb, it’s not just pointless, it’s a little insulting. It’s this focus on the minutiae, the inane, the mulch that quashes important things and keeps us all thick and bickering about nothing. If I were somehow by some catastrophic cock-up, in charge of the length and detail of the coverage of this story it would run like this. ‘In other news Tiger Woods fucked someone other than his wife. Actually quite a few people. How about that? Probably won’t stop him being a good golfer so you know… whatever. Good night!’ The reason the guy is famous is he’s very good at a boring sport. Nothing else should matter to us, that’s what we know him for. Now if he was the world champion monogamist then yeah we’d have ourselves a headline. As it stands, man dicks around behind wife’s back isn’t good enough. Tiger Woods says sorry – NOT NEWS!

While I’m at it stills from Lady Gaga’s new video aren’t interesting enough either. Do they look expensive? Yes. Are they mental? Yes. Why do I give a shite? Errrrr… Lady Gaga videos – NOT NEWS!

These things wouldn’t get to me so much but when you spend a lot of the day absorbing news as I did it means you see the stories tick back round again on the rolling news channels. You discover the new little bits of information they receive every time they come up again and sometimes, like in Tiger’s case, they have nothing but decide it’s important enough to dominate the entire day. You see I was studying for a journalism exam I had today that involved a section on how up to date I am with current affairs and all that jazz. So CNN went on every morning and papers were read and whereas some probably quite important names of members of the Hong Kong government wouldn’t sink in, the news repeatedly hammered me with crap that stuck in my head like an annoyingly catchy song (like a Gaga song come to think of it). When I got to the exam I sat down opened the paper and turned to the ‘what are these things and why are they significant to the news?’ section and right there, fifth line: ‘Tiger Woods’. Head meet desk. There were more important things on the quiz too of course but a golfer saying sorry ranks right up there with Haiti and the subject of democratisation in China. Sometimes you can’t win.

I wrote at length about this in the exam itself so I won’t go into too much detail again but I do wonder, is the news supplying us with want we want or are we being told what to expect from the news? The way I see it, the nigh on instant access news sites and the-most-important-thing-ever Twitter give you means the horse’s mouth is tonguing your ear. You’re eye to eye with the eye-witness. Information has never been so readily available but instead of seeing this and deciding to focus on the stuff we can’t get access to, television news networks give us exactly the same things we’ve just looked up or been linked to because they think that shows what we want. Does that seem backwards to you? If I can already get it from the celebrity’s mouth myself why do I need you to tell me all about it again for three hours? It’s the equivalent of going to see a movie and as soon as you walk out the door a man screams into your ear telling you all the plot twists. News shouldn’t be just fluff and nonsense and it certainly shouldn’t be just what we want to hear. But who is to blame? Us or them? One thing my previous studying has taught me is there are no easy answers. I just hope my next area of study is a bit more helpful.

Currently reading: The South China Morning Post ad nauseum.

Currently watching: BBC’s world service and the wonderful Home Movies cartoon courtesy of YouTube.

Currently playing the shit out of: GAGA OOH LALA! On a constant repeat in my head.

Note: Those of you wondering what I was up to during Chinese New Year, that’s the next entry. I’m waiting for the photos to surface for illustrative purposes.



6 thoughts on “When is news not news? When it’s bullshit.

  1. Megan says:

    How can you not think the Tiger Woods scandal is news? The man CHEATED on his WIFE! That in and of itself is such a horrendous crime that it clearly tops the deaths of 150,000 people.

    I’m convinced that the actual reason is that most journalists have a set of stories that they can just replace the names and call it a day. The story, in this case, is “Why do powerful men cheat?” Writing about Haiti requires, well, writing, rather than Find & Replace on the names. Powerful men cheat for the same reasons any other man cheats, the only difference is that they generally have the means to do it more frequently.

    Also, one point that NO ONE seems to ever bring up: let’s say that Elin cheated on Tiger. And let’s say that, upon learning of this, Tiger went after her with a golf club. Would Elin be seen as the sole transgressor at that point? Hell no.

  2. It’s like the snow thing. It’s still snowing…and we don’t have any news to report. Send someone to a snowy part of the country to show how snowy it is. But why? I can look out of my window to do that?
    Thank you! Sex addiction? Uhh…or horniness. Or playa’s disease.
    Yeah I went there. I said playa.
    And excuse me but is that a hair telephone, now?

  3. Sam says:

    Body language experts (a job about as useful as Anne Frank’s drum-kit) – brilliant!

    On a more serious note though I completely agree with you. A lot of what the mass media report is not news. If anything gets blown out of proportion it’s because it’s a slow news day and they need to fill the papers and TV channels with something like celebrity divorces, or Kylie’s thigh high boost (Daily Mail that one – nuff said). I’ve written a blog post with a similar theme. Earthquake = news, popstar wearing a telephone = not news.

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