Long Term News channel
Celebrity and scare-mongering are not news
The Circling Fin
When I rule the world, my first task will be to launch a Long Term News channel, or LTN-TV for short. LTN would ignore all so-called ‘Breaking News’ to concentrate instead on the real trends and stories that are shaping our world.
This would mean, for a start, that much airtime would be spent covering GOOD news. For example, the steady decline in international warfare. After all, no two stable democracies have ever gone to war – and the proportion of stable democratic states has been growing fast in recent decades. We should hear more about that in our nightly bulletins.
Scientific advances against disease would be another topic covered by LTN-TV. Read the biographies of anyone born before 1900 and you will be sure to find them dogged by a malady that could now be cured by a quick visit to the GP or chemist. Nowadays the wonders of medical science are often eclipsed by the clotted bureaucracy between patients and carers. But let’s not forget our ever-extending life spans: That onward march would be covered by LTN because it is a real and tangible change.
Not all trends are positive of course, most notably Climate Change, which is more newsworthy than anything in the usual headlines. It may not always be good news on LTN but it will be, as the old slogan goes, ‘News You Can Use’ perhaps encouraging our young to develop solutions.
As Proprietor and Chief Bottlewasher of LTN-TV, I would avoid all disaster coverage lacking a meaningful cause. For example, the gas explosions that led to several tragedies in early ’90s Ireland was caused by an underlying problem we were able to fix. That was worth covering. But much of what occupies screen time on our rolling news channels is in fact meaningless, either concerning celebrity malfunctions or the twitching merry-go-round of public life. (By way of contrast, our newspapers are much better at digging into the unseen dramas in our society: Consider Áine Ryan’s recent articles on child sexual abuse in these pages).
Why do I dislike the TV News we have now? Because it paints a false picture of reality. The biggest problem is that viewers take reported events and reasonably assume they represent ‘new trends’. So, for instance, covering the snatching of children in other countries has become a broadcast staple. Quite correctly, as our own hidden history came to light, we tightened up on vetting and child protection procedures. But we also created a situation whereby ordinary people infer from a small number of irresponsibly reported cases that a rising number of predators are out to get their kids. That’s not true. But the result is that even in Ireland (practically the safest place on Planet Earth to raise a family) some parents are afraid to let their children roam free anymore.
Therefore, top of the headlines for the first hour of my new LTN-TV station would be: “Good news, viewers: There’s never been a better time to be a kid than right now!”
Fin Keegan is a writer based in Westport. This column is based on his weekly radio essay, heard on WRFM radio, and online at thecirclingfin.com.