Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Today : The big news agenda

I think we were spoilt by September 11th. I remember the day vividly, partly because a week before, literally to the minute, I had been standing atop the Twin Towers. A friend of mine also had a relative who, in the first hours was missing and the family, knowing that he had been having breakfast downtown that morning before attending class, knew he had been close. At work she just looked terrible and spent much of the morning in tears. When the phone system came back up the next day he managed to contact them in Flushing to say he'd stayed at a friend's apartment and simply couldn't move due to the gridlock, or contact them due to the phones being down citywide.

For the next few days I watched CNN continuously. All the big hitter presenters set themselves up in midtown with the plume of smoke as a backdrop and we watched the story unfold. It was the biggest and biggest covered news story in history. And we were spoiled. In many ways this was the moment for multi-channel 24 hour news. This is what it was invented for - the biggest thing ever to happen in the city where most of the US news organisations are headquartered. (you could argue that the tsunami was an even bigger story, but most of it took place in areas of the world where news organisations were lucky if they had a junior reporter with a satellite phone, and plenty of places where there was no access at all - so we didn't see it. The same happened with Hurricane Katrina. The coverage did not match the size of the incident so even though it was probably as massive, it was not as massive a story)

The first time I really remember watching a news story all day was the Dunblane Massacre in 1996. I had a day off from college and turned on the TV to find the story unfolding. In some ways I think it was the first story ever broadcast on BBC news 24 (even though the channel didn't actually launch for another year) - like a rolling news tryout.

Today I saw and listened to many discussions about the relationship between Britain and Russia and several extended reports on organ donation. Neither story really had the content to sustain the length of reporting. But that was todays new agenda. The 24 hour channels have to fill the time whatever happens. It was boring.

Which is why 9/11 spoiled us. This was a day when nothing else was happening. There was no filler in that week in September. I was gripped even by the endlessly looped scraps of information and comment.

It's a horrible admission but part of me likes it when a news story is big and then gets bigger. Of course, nobody wants anyone to die horribly but I can't help being addicted to the big stories when they come around. But I am fated to disappointment the rest of my life. Unless a meteor hits a major western country or aliens land, there will never be a story as big as 9/11.

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