Yesterday I reported a minor scare on a bus near King’s Cross with the headline “Again?” – a tad premature as it turned out to be little more than a small fire (which happen all the time on London’s rather crappy busses), but I at least had the excuse that no news organisation had, at the time I put up the post, got any information about it. Within half an hour, the all clear had been given – as I reported – and everyone got back to going about their business as the two roads which had been closed as a precaution were re-opened.
So, how do we get from “Small fire on bus causes minor concern for half an hour” into The Mirror’s alarmist headline PASSENGERS FLEE IN TERROR FROM ‘BOMB BUS’? Or, indeed, the London Evening standard’s (print only) NEW TERROR ALERT SEALS OFF LONDON?
What’s wrong with, erm… you know – not spreading fear and panic further than necessary? Why not – perhaps – report what actually happened without exaggeration? Especially considering that you had plenty of time to find out what the real story was before going to press? Perhaps you’d like to take a leaf out of The LA Times’ book, with their infinitely more accurate headline London Blames Engine Fire for Smoke on Bus?
I’ll tell you why they don’t curb their alarmism – because fear sells. Terror sells.
My daily readership figures have doubled since I liveblogged the 7th and 21st July terror attacks. It’s likely that newspaper circulation has gone up significantly as well. Add to that the fact that parliament’s in recess, we’ve got tit all to write about other than terrorism.
And to continue to attract the readers, headlines need to lure them in. Had I titled this post “A thought about something that happened yesterday” it’s likely fewer people would be lured in than have been by the use of the wonderful word “knobfloggers” (I’m rather proud of that one – came up with it before any coffee or alcohol as well…). Likewise, the press need to shock, scare, and intrigue to con us into forking out fifty pence for their poorly-produced rags. (At least you can read my turgid shite for free…)
The impact of all this? Terror lingers. Fear is revived. We continue to worry about more attacks (helped by the constant demands that we shit ourselves daily coming from the head of the Metropolitan Police). We fail to get back to our normal lives. And the terrorists have achieved another small victory.
We’ve already had this debate, but I fear that in the wake of London’s latest scrape with homicidal idiots it’s going to run and run. (Personally I’m more scared of being stabbed by some idiot while out with the missus than I am of terrorists, but maybe that’s just me and the readers of the Daily Mail…)