“WATCH: Bristol tourists arrive home after terror toll in Tunisia continues to rise”, announces the Bristol Post website, leading viewers to a gallery of traumatised, exhausted and relieved holidaymakers pass through the arrivals area at Bristol Airport. What, I thought to myself, was the point of that? I’m assuming it’s the local angle the paper is getting at, in which case I suppose it becomes a matter of looking for anyone you might know. And then what? To find out how awful they must be feeling? I think I already have a pretty good idea of that from the radio and TV coverage.
I am sure there must have been other news items on which they could have reported, but instead the photographer was sent to the airport to get a few decent photos, hopefully of tearful reunions. It’s a human interest story, you see. No matter that for many of these people, just a day ago, were literally staring down the barrel towards the end of their lives. You’re lying on a sunbed, enjoying a taste of North African paradise, then a man takes out his AK47 and changes the world forever.
It’s all because big news is bad news. I am always reminded of Don Henley’s blistering demolition of the media in his song “Dirty Laundry” where he sings:
“We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blond who
Comes on at five
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam
In her eye
It’s interesting when people die
Give us dirty laundry”
I am not quite as critical of TV and radio as I am with the written press, but all the major news stations let themselves down with some of the coverage from Sousse, one awful example being a woman wearing a pink bikini being stretched off the beach following the attacks. What on earth could be the point of that? I dread to think it was titillation in such grisly circumstances, but why was it the TV companies chose to show a less than semi-clad woman? This was someone’s friend, someone’s wife, someone’s daughter, someone’s mum. People in the comfort of their armchairs at home may have recognised her, just after a murderous attack, not knowing if she was dead or alive, injured or uninjured or even, god forbid, widowed. What were the TV editors thinking about? I would have been absolutely livid if that had been a relative of mine, especially as the footage was shown with no subsequent explanation.
Most of the coverage has been excellent and I commend in particular BBC Radio Five Live and Sky News for the general tone and content of their coverage. The former in particular caught the mood perfectly, with its skilled teams of presenters in the UK and around the world. There was repetition, which was of course necessary for listeners dipping in and out of the coverage, but it was never hysterical or speculative.
I imagine that the news organisations review coverage after the event and look at what worked and what didn’t. In general, it was good, very good, although I really do not want to have cameras thrust in the face of those who nearly didn’t come home at all. I don’t want to see bikini clad victims either because it’s crass and insensitive.
I’d put this atrocity on a level with the 7/7 murders. It will live in the memory forever to all of us who were at home watching and listening to the unbelievable scenes, but it will dominate the lives of those who were actually there even more and someone, somewhere at the main media outlets should spare a thought for them, but not just because they were wearing a pink bikini.