Posted by Ian
Sitting in a media bubble, surrounded by television sets tuned to rolling news channels and computers browsing websites of the world, it’s all too easy to get sucked into a bout of unfounded hysteria.
Leaving aside the question of whether hysteria can ever be anything but unfounded, last Friday’s discovery of two apparent car bombs in central London was a case in point. Both BBC News 24 and Sky News were seized by (perhaps understandable) feverish excitement, breathlessly reporting every possible scrap of non-detail and non-fact, filling endless minutes with endless empty statements, and almost behaving in a manner that was tantamount to being disappointed that the bombs *hadn’t* gone off and there *hadn’t* been hundreds killed. Such is the lot, I guess, of being a rolling news channel.
We deliberately tried to fight this trend by keeping our coverage of Friday’s events at a modest level. We didn’t make it the main item on the site, nor did we turn off the rotating ‘slideshow’ of images that usually sits at the top of the homepage. The reasons for this were simple:
1) No bombs had gone off.
2) Nobody had been killed.
3) No suspects had been caught.
4) No plot had been discovered.
This was in contrast to the United States and German versions of MSN, which both made the story the main item on their sites, illustrated with arresting headlines and stark images of the car abandoned in the West End of London.
It’s interesting that there was such a divergence in attitude amongst the global MSN ‘family’. Perhaps the rest of the world found it harder to resist the somewhat sensationalist stance struck by broadcasters working in this country. Maybe it helps living and working in a nation forever beset by ‘terror threats’ and ‘security alerts’. Alternatively, perhaps it was just down to the fact that we were able to look out of our office window and see that the world hadn’t ended.
Whatever, we held back from expanding our coverage of the story until one of those four points above had actually been met. This duly happened on Saturday afternoon when two people tried to drive a blazing, bomb-filled jeep into Glasgow Airport.
At that stage we did make it the lead item on the site, where it remained until Monday morning.