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April Jones – A Study in Media Cruelty

October 5, 2012


I watched agog as a campaign to raise awareness turned into missing girl porn. It was plain when the public response which had been a help to the police, became a huge hindrance. I can identify the moment when the media’s mock concern for a little girl, turned into a morbid hunt for a corpse.

If all these things were entirely clear to me, a man on the Clapham omnibus, they cannot have been unknown to the television executives who made the decision to continue to feed the story.

What makes it particularly distasteful is that by no means could this be considered a “slow news week” – quite the opposite. And so, I posit, the tabloid-isation of the media industry is matter of choice; not necessity. Because it is easy.

In the climate of filling the 24 hour cycle with this sort of pornographic aesthetic of personal tragedy, Kay Burley confronting volunteers with the reality that the little girl is probably dead is simply the money-shot.

And still hacks continue to confront people with that harsh probability. People feebly respond “we have to keep hope alive”. The vans stay put. The cameras chase and the boom microphones assault.

This is a village in grief. Denial is a perfectly legitimate first stage to dealing with it. Like wicked buzzards the media appear to be saying: “Excuse me, but we’re on a schedule here. Could you get on with it? We would like good close-up shots of anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance before the day is out. Thanks.”

How about leaving them the hell alone? Anyone with a shred of humanity? No.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2012 12:44 pm

    Thank you. After an argument on Twitter with two journalists I was starting to think I was going mad because I think what Kay Burley did was intrusive and wrong in human terms, as well as pretty bad journalism since it elicited no information.

    • October 5, 2012 1:39 pm

      I understand believing the entire outside broadcast circus surrounding April is wrong, but Kay Burley was live on air, and answering a question – urgently repeated- from one of the two interviewees who were waiting to talk to her: “What’s happened? What’s happened?”.
      There seems to be a very distasteful Hate Kay Burley strand developing, on the back of theincreasiongly forlorn and harrowing search for a dear little girl.

      The sequence is here:( Probably better to ignore the odd suggestion in the fourth paragraph, to fast-forward so that you miss the context)

  2. October 5, 2012 1:10 pm

    Tabloid reporting, press or TV makes the world a nastier, meaner place. Always stooping to the lowest common denominator in order to make money. Society is poorly let down by this attitude which does nothing to inform or educate. Hacked Off and Leveson need full support from society to address these issues if possible.

  3. carol brown permalink
    October 5, 2012 1:16 pm

    I agree totally with your sentiments. This is a tragedy for those concerned and it is more than distasteful to have this media frenzy. I am also concerned that the prime minister made a public comment…children sadly go missing rather too frequently-will he now comment on all such cases? If not then are some missing children more worthy than others?

  4. Coles Andrews permalink
    October 5, 2012 1:41 pm

    Thought Burley’s protracted and cringe-worthy interview with the suspects estranged son earlier in the week was bad. Today’s attempt to fill the airtime knocked it into a cocked hat!

  5. October 5, 2012 1:44 pm

    The media is sick and is serving a society itself sick with morbid curiousity…

    Your post is refreshing (despite its sad content) and gives me hope that at least we all are not lost.

    How Kay Burley sleeps at night I will never know…

    Anna :o]

  6. Mal Fidler permalink
    October 5, 2012 3:09 pm

    I could not agree more. Everytime we turned on Sky News it was just as you say and we turned it off. They were willing for a story to happen within their own timescale and their compassion sounds very hollow. Very sad

  7. Dan permalink
    October 5, 2012 3:13 pm

    Have to disagree here with the timing/intent of your article; if you are so intent on lambasting the media for their intrusiveness, why not wait until this tragic case is “resolved” (in whatever dreadful way that ends up being) and then post your polemics. I got to this article via your Twitter feed; both that, and this blog, could be regarded as “citizen journalism” (bleurgh), so that you’re simply perpetuating/feeding the debate/public interest/media machine. Journalist, non-publish thyself?

    • October 5, 2012 3:38 pm

      I’m not standing in that village shoving a microphone in someone’s face asking “How do you feel about the police saying she’s dead?” I think that makes quite a difference.

  8. Enfrance permalink
    October 5, 2012 3:33 pm

    Some time ago a young girl was attacked in the woods behind our house. The media descended on our road and the cul-de-sac leading to the place. When the furore died down – newsworthy because the girl bravely identified the culprit – a TV van was parked outside our houses for an unbelievable two weeks after. It wasn’t until the local yobs started to harrass the characters inside that they moved. A complaint to the police was not acted upon except for a patrol car to appear and then drive away.

    Truly sick. as if it wasn’t bad enough for the parents, relations and people of the area.

  9. October 5, 2012 5:08 pm

    Last night I was watching some tv and accidentally flicked onto sky news when the football had finished. The strap line was rolling a phrase in a similar vein to ‘is it all over’ and they were showing the front page of a ‘news’paper whose headline read ” I saw a man standing by the river with a bin-bag” . It’s not just Sky news which has a monopoly on sickening speculation. Much as I have tried to follow this case, I can’t anymore.

  10. Farrar, Claire permalink
    October 5, 2012 5:35 pm

    A plea on behalf of buzzards! Please don’t categorise them as evil. They are truly magnificent creatures and don’t deserve the analogy.


  11. October 6, 2012 12:18 am

    Excellent summation. Had to turn the news off. It became uncomfortable viewing once the police announced it was now a murder case.

  12. October 10, 2012 9:00 am

    Reblogged this on actuarialchris and commented:
    Great post re April Jones and totally agreed with every word. While media campaigns to raise awareness can be essential the circus that followed was distasteful to say the least.

  13. October 10, 2012 9:00 am

    Hope you don’t mind me reblogging it, excellent and well written piece.

  14. Paul permalink
    December 10, 2012 8:37 pm

    Are you familiar with Elvis Costello’s fine song “Pills And Soap?” Worth a listen.

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