The ubiquitous, nigh-unrelenting nature of today’s media doubtless has its merits; it feeds - even fuels - our epistemic desire for constant, up-to-the-minute updates. So much so, perhaps, that our thirst is symptomatic of the resources we have at our fingertips: portable internet devices are increasingly rendering newspapers as antiquated as papyrus leaves.
Reportage is essential. Editorials step back and offer (often insightful) perspective. Video allows for graphic portrayals; ‘realisations’ of events relayed to passive recipients.
But at what point does media coverage become invasive, clinical or insensitive? And to what extent is this related to the rate at which news output is produced, broadcast and ultimately turned over?
On Friday a tsunami hit Japan. On Monday evening, bbc 1 aired a ‘special edition’ epsiode of a relatively bouncy, informal and informative show called ‘Bang Goes the Theory’. Its subject was the tsunami that hit Japan on Friday.
Cue the opening credit scene, the ‘attention grabber’ as you can imagine it being referred to on a ‘how to’ guide for would-be producers. A chirpy female voice recounts, in breathy sentences packed with inane adjectives, the events of the past few days. Footage ensues. And then we are informed of what we’ll learn over the course of the next 30 minutes. We’ll visit a workshop where two pieces of wood held in a vice will gradually be forced together until once suddenly juts above the other, thereby explaining how the tsunami occurred. That chirpy voice will return alongside two casual would-be science types garbed in check/denim shirts (incorrigibly interchangable) and chinos, talking about the devastation in Japan. Talk, that is, over the drone of echoey voices beneath them. They are hanging out on a mezzanine in a recently-opened, chrome-laden, interactive science/learning centre for kids, of course.
Only, the show isn’t pitched at kids. It feels so far removed and so very hypothetical. Nothing they say seems to be remotely related to real life. It fails to resonate and it seems incredulous. Their words are light, frivolous, buoyant; they seem to float away like helium balloons.
How soon is now? Too soon, perhaps.