Friday, 25 November 2011

Story Obsession

This week there has been a lot of attention on the press itself as the Leveson Inquiry garners evidence from various people, including JK Rowling, Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller and some other less well known victims of press intrusion, like the parents of a murder victim whose son committed suicide in response to tabloid stories about his dead sister.

Every day this week the evidence has been televised, giving a unique insight into how the press, or certain sections of it, conduct themselves in pursuit of story material.  The spectrum ranges from exaggeration to outright lies.  In fact the most outrageous the lie the better the story, in the minds of some.  What is most appalling is the lack of responsibility for the consequences of these lies.  It may sell a few more papers, or get more attention for  a website, but what about the aftermath?  

And why do these stories sell papers?  

As human beings we are obsessed with making up stories.  If we weren't we wouldn't be writing novels, telling jokes, penning screenplays.  Gossip is most people's favourite pastime because there's nothing more satisfying than painting the people we know into scenes.  But we can get carried away with it, as this Inquiry is showing.  Malicious gossip, filled with half truths and distortions, can have devastating effects.

So where is the line between public interest and intrusion to the point of stalking?  What is acceptable in pursuit of a story?  How do you protect an individual's privacy while allowing a free press?

It will be interesting to find out.

1 comment:

Scott M Patterson said...

I agree with you about people's lust for the shocking and their fiery imaginations, but to be honest it's a two headed lion.

Newsapers print lies and exagerrated half truths because shock factor sells issues, and they do it because, at least until this enquiry, they would usually get away with it. A wary retreat, and mutterings about 'sources', with no real action taken.

The really insidious thing is that the common man, who buys the issue for the story, is an ignorant, naive ass. Too many people will believe anything they read in their paper as fact, and can't grasp 'lie' and 'newspaper' existing in the same realm. Plus, there's the power of suggestion. Even if something's clearly false, it still lingers in the mind, and becomes confused back into truth with time.

The only way to prevent this from happening is to make sure papers are appropriately punished if they can't back up their stories. Recently, this just hasn't been happening...