“All the news that’s fit to print” is a brave sentiment.
But who decides what’s fit to print? Does that include images or just words? News readers on television say “We can’t show you this, it is too awful” (rarely their decision, it’s made by the editor of the programme or higher up the hierarchy) and I don’t know whether that is a morbid kind of consideration (ie now that you’re dead and mutilated, we won’t show you) or a sop to the sensitivities of the west where we increasingly removed from how the rest of the world lives – in smells and hygiene let alone war and deprivation.
I confess an overactive imagination will supply me with details without much help… But my “OK, show me” might be upsetting for you and the other way around. Whether killed in war or disease or natural cataclysm, a dead body is just that – a sack of skin and bones from which the spirit is fled. I understand why people are repelled, why death remains a mystery but context is all and context is made up of the societal, the personal, time and big emotions like fear and dread.
But “all the news that’s fit to print” involves more than tragedy and destruction, whether natural or manmade or a bit of both.
ALL the news means every bit of information that is available at the time of going to air or print. This may change as witnesses come forward and investigations get under way.
I always want to shout “hooray!” when a presenter or writer says “this is what we know up till now” because it is honest. It says “we don’t know it all and we are not going to pretend that we do”.
For we rarely hear all the story. We hear the bit that makes headlines, what is expedient for the security of the nation, to maintain peace of mind,
what makes a “good” story – though increasing numbers of us ask drily “good for whom?”
The application and interpretation of the law makes for “good “ stories, whether siding with those who need its might to back them up or to oppose them. But law is complex. There are expectations of law which are completely misguided.
An imprint called Lawpack issued a pocket guide to “Unmarried couples and the law” and the woman we had into the radio station where I worked to discuss it was at pains to tell us how many people thought this or that constituted “common law” and that their understanding of “common law” didn’t exist.
Law is updated, moved around and changed. Unless it is of specific interest to you, you may not know its current application. But the purveyors of popular media – and remember that most newspapers are fighting for their lives – don’t worry about that if it’s a good story. A good story needs an “aaah!” factor – at least one, multiples of “aaah!” even better.
So I find myself wondering about Rebecca Minnock, three year old Ethan and Roger Williams. (It is a corking story of three “aahs! “ – lone mother, small boy and devoted father). But the most devoted fathers have a hard time getting custody, especially so early and when the boy has been living with his mother alone for two years. I don’t know enough to be for or against anybody in this except the child. Children of any age find breakup between their parents, married or not, hard to deal with. How hard depends on the child but few benefit from a grown up and agreeable end. Too many become the arena in which the end of the affair is fought out.
Here is a fine example of “half the story” which asks more questions that it answers. Why did the relationship break down?
What was the child’s role in the relationship?
Why did Minnock run away?
Why did her mother and a friend believe in her so strongly that they risked legal disapprobation to the point of prison to support her?
Apart from Ethan, I feel most sorry for the family court in all this who may be trying to do everything right while the public looks on at what they know and deems it wrong.
Half a loaf may be better than no bread.
But half a story helps few.