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Tuesday 14 September 2010

Now look what you've gone and done.

Two stories in the news recently have caught my attention and, for me at least, they both show the possible and potential dangers when certain stories get into the mainstream media.

The first, which you may well have guessed already. Is the story of Pastor Terry Jones, of Gainsville, Florida.
I'm sure that we all are pretty familiar with this story now. If you have no idea what i'm talking about, you have either been living under a rock, or out of range of the worlds media. Lucky you, i say.
If this is the case, i suggest you search Google for the answer.

I think the aspect of this particular story that surprised many people, was how a Pastor of a very small congregation (approx 30) can suddenly have the worlds media beating a path to his door?
I suspect the answer lies in the way that other people got involved, or involved themselves, in this story. The very fact that the President of the United States of America and one of his most senior officials felt the need to speak about, or even speak with Pastor Terry Jones, is bound to attract attention. I don't intend to speculate here as to why President Obama decided got involved. Although, i have my own theory.
The last i heard, Pastor Terry Jones, had thankfully decided not to go ahead with his original protest.

The second story, which i heard about on the radio this morning, concerns a young 7 year old girl.
Apparently, the girls parents had been allowing the young girl to cross the road outside of the family home, on her own and then to catch a bus to her school. Nothing too much wrong with that i guess? Especially, when it was explained, by the girls mother, that the road was a very quiet one and that the young girl was very happy with the arrangement.
I know that some people might argue with the girl's parent's decision. But, for the purposes of this blog post anyway, that's an argument for another day.

Well, the local Council got to hear about young girl's arrangements. I have no idea how.
The Council then decided to send a letter to the girl's parent's, effectively telling them that they were not looking after their daughter properly and that they should stop the arrangement forthwith.
My understanding is that the local Council have now backtracked on their decision. Probably because of all of the media coverage and bad publicity for the Council, that this story has generated.

Now, at first glance, it may appear that both of these stories have had happy and probably sensible conclusions. But, in both cases, the damage had been already done before the story concluded.

For example, the parents of the young girl will now have to change their arrangements anyway. This is because every potential child molester and pervert in the UK, now knows that a 7 year old girl might have been standing, on her own, at a quiet bus stop on a country lane. The parents cannot now take the chance of letting their young daughter catching the bus on her own.

The story of Pastor Terry Jones has far more serious consequences. Apart from the fact that many people have already died in demonstrations, around the world, about Pastor Jones and his threatened Koran burning. There are also far longer lasting potential consequences as well.
Because of the world wide media coverage that this story has generated, millions more people now know of it than ever would have done. If certain people had just ignored the mad ramblings of a small town preacher, a world wide problem may well have been averted. Because that is what this has now become, a world wide problem.

Try as the world's media might, to try and brush this whole sorry episode under the carpet. The damage has now been well and truly done.

We all know what happens when allegations are made in the media about certain people, or events. Whether these allegations are correct, or not doesn't matter to many people. They see the original story and that's what sticks in their mind.
I can think of many examples where people have been exposed for an alleged "crime" and it's turned out that the person has been totally innocent of that reported "crime". But, that person has been tainted because of those allegations and often for many years to come as well.
Yes, the newspaper, or whatever, will publish an apology, at a later date. But, nobody sees that, or takes no notice of it.
Once again, the damage has already been done.

And, that's where we are now with both of these stories.

In one, a little girl has had her journey to school changed forever, to protect her safety.
In the other, the USA and potentially the whole western world has had it's reputation damaged and future security threatened.

And all to try and fill up the 24 hour news programmes. Or, because some people just can't keep their mouths shut.


  1. One point of order; the President and other high officials only got involved well after the media had blown this into a global scandal. At that point, to remain silent and pretend they'd never heard of Pastor Jones would have shown a severe lack of leadership. Yes, it would have been better if they'd not needed to step into that mess, but I feel they had no other choice.

    Other than that, yes, the 24-hour news cycle means that no press release, no scoop, no anonymous tip is too small, meaningless, or stupid to get the medias attention. Often this is good, and a leveling effect, and broadens the voices and perspectives we get to hear from. But the other side of that is that some of those perspectives were better off hidden. But who's to say which voices don't deserve to be heard?

  2. You're absolutely right on this one Andy. The fact that either story saw the light of day is a good indication at how far the world has fallen from the days of actual news reporting. These days it seems to revolve around sensationalizing the most minute details.

    I really dislike reading and watching most news. It takes so much time to find the real stories these days. I also think that many in powerful positions try to exploit these little stories to exert their own agendas.

  3. Ken: Fair enough. I can't pretend to know the exact details of the story, as i was more worried by it's implications, than it's content. I tend to think that Obama only made the comments he did to try & appease the Musilm world & to show that he was acting tough on this issue.
    Yes, voices to deserve to be heard. But, unforuantely the 24 news culture means that many stories are completely blown out of all proportion. But, i guess we're now stuck with that?

  4. Steve: I do watch the BBC news & try & avoid those 24 hour rolling news stations. Even so, i still get annoyed at some of the "stories" that the BBC decide to cover. Stories that they wouldn't have entertained a few years ago.