Happy News Year: The first rant of 2009

{ Image via Wayne Wai and What What. Feathering by me. }

The best thing about this time of year (apart from the excessive celebrating/ sleeping/not working, of course) is the glaringly obvious fact that every single media outlet is running on skeleton and/or junior staff, most of whom aren’t entirely sure what they’re doing, or else have taken the opportunity to be overly frivolous, safe in the knowledge that there is no-one else in the office to keep their creativity in check. The kids who get to spend their early ’09 overnights writing headlines for The Sydney Morning Herald online fit the latter description. Now, I’m a huge fan of the punilicious headline (in fact, almost all of mine either start off or end up that way), but “Fire melts Sydney chocolate factory” is a bit of an understatement. Yes, it is humorous, and it will make people read the story (hell, I did), but surely it’s a touch insensitive to the owners of said factory, and the fire brigade, and the police, and the neighbours, all of whom would surely prefer something like “Chocolate factory ravaged by fierce, dangerous and very destructive inferno”. Then again, the runners-up are “Cheap toilet paper imports get flushed” and “Unpicking an Urban legend“. I can almost see the work experience kids brainstorming headlines in their tea break (replete with guffawing and hi-fives — hell, I would), which is all very well and good for publications of Daily Mail calibre, advertorials, and unpublishable student assignments, but somehow not okay when it sends the story to the top of the Top Ten Most Read Articles list on the SMH website. Especially when the BBC, while probably also running on holiday staff, is reporting actual news, like “Hamas leader killed in air strike“, “Dozens die in Bangkok nightclub fire“… okay, and “Classic Bugatti worth £4.3 million gathered dust for half a century“… and “Special delivery: Baby girl born on US-bound flight“. I suppose it’s just that time of year. As we speak, ABC Local Radio is holding a call-in on overused and most-hated words of 2008, in response to the Lake Superior State University “34th Annual List of Words to Be Banished” in the new year*. The list includes ‘staycation’, ‘maverick’ (re: McCain/Palin) and ‘green’ (re: everything). ABC callers have suggested ‘google’ as a verb, ‘going forwards’, ‘at the end of the day’, ‘awesome’ (I’m a serial offender on that one) and… ‘blog’. In other words, words that, if anything, will be used more as time goes on. Personally, I’d have liked to see an international fatwa on ‘bootylicious‘, ‘credit-crunch‘ (it sounds like a breakfast cereal) and that invincible Australian grammatical crime: ‘yous‘. But that’s just me.

*The list is worth a visit, if just for such gems as:

❤ : Supposed to resemble a heart, or stand for the word ‘love.’ Used when sending those important text messages to loved ones. “Just say the word instead of making me turn my head sideways and wondering what ‘less than three’ means.” Andrea Estrada, Chicago.

PS. ABC Radio has now moved on to discuss yet another article/thesis/documentary/dissertation/book about Australian Big Things. Big Merino, Big Cheese, Big Banana, Big Pineapple, etc. That link back there heads to a google search result of 2,090,000, and I am willing to bet good money that most of them are actually accurate hits. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a Big Things article; watched a TV documentary about The Big Things; or met someone who had written about The Big Things, researched The Big Things, visited The Big Things and written a day-by-day, Thing-by-Thing travelogue (etc.), I would have enough money to buy that vintage Bugatti. Enough with The Big Things! Memo to all media outlets: YOU REALLY NEED TO STOP DRAGGING OUT THIS ‘STORY’. Seriously. It Is Not News. It is not novel, surprising, interesting or innovative. It’s not even an interest piece. And even if it was, we have heard it all before, because you already told us about it at least five times last year and every year before that. Eugh. I’m going to go and read a book.

Related posts: Fiscal hell is full of puns. Cool. & Poking Holes in ‘The News’.


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