Posted by Ian
Can it really have been a year? Not in terms of the length of time Madeleine McCann has been missing – plenty of people have been absent for longer – but rather the kind of coverage the story has received in the media.
For most of those 12 months we’ve had to endure day upon day of hysterical scare-mongering, finger-pointing, muck-raking and innuendo. It’s felt much much longer. Tittle-tattle has been elevated to gospel, and insinuation raised to the level of confirmation. Nobody is guiltless, MSN included. The merest scrap of a story has been treated as headline news. Conjecture – so and so *might* have this done to them, this *may* come to pass – has been passed off as fact. The most trivial of events – the McCann parents go out for a walk – has been hyped up to an enormous proportion. The result has been a shameful year for anybody associated with journalism in Great Britain.
After what’s seemed like a lull in coverage, perhaps prompted by the treatment meted out to the Daily Express and Star, the same old headlines are now resurfacing. Or rather, the same old obsessions are resurfacing. The anniversary appears to be an excuse for everyone to pile in with retrospectives and reportage which add nothing to a story that has been appallingly sensationalised from the start.
Let’s not be coy about this. The main reasons the media have been, and will continue to be, drawn to this tale like bees to honey are:
a) the missing person is a cute and adorable child
b) it happened in an exotic, picturesque location
c) middle-class people – i.e. the normally unimpeachable backbone of Britain – are involved
as opposed to:
a) the missing person being ordinary – i.e. dull
b) it happened in an everyday location
c) the usual suspects – i.e. single parents/unemployed/poor people – are to blame
Take a look at the work of Missing People, formerly the National Missing Persons Helpline; in particular the sheer number of current cases of missing and unidentified persons they are promoting (at the time of writing, 289 across the whole of the UK). Every single one of those people has a story to tell. A story that is not being told. A story that continues to be bumped off the pages of real newspapers by anything but real news.
The best thing we can hope for on the anniversary of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance is a change in the attitude of everyone towards this and every case of a missing person. But I doubt it’ll happen. In nobody’s best interest, this will run and run.