Saturday, July 10, 2010

No Raoul Moat puns allowed

I really couldn't let the whole Raoul Moat incident go past without some comment, I really couldn't. It's possible that you may agree with some of what I say. It's possible you'll want to tell me to go and stick my head in a hippo. But I still have to say these things anyway. Sorry.

The TV news reporting has been the most fuck-awful I think I've ever seen. I won't name names. There's no point. They've all been as bad as each other. The 24 hour news channels have been the worst culprits, however, with ridiculous interviews, aimless site visits and pointless speculation. They've pushed cameras in people's faces just to watch them break down and cry because a loved one is inside the armed exclusion zone. They've showed us still photographs of drains. They've wheeled out a surfeit of experts who - with no information whatsoever at their disposal - have done what we've all done: guess what's going to happen. I particularly enjoyed the number of people who said that it was 'ridiculous the police haven't found him yet'. Oh really? I bet you I could stay hidden for weeks if I wanted to if I had access to as much dense woodland as he had. Plus, of course, it's really quite hard to spot someone who's in a drain under your feet.

This photo (above - copyright Newsgroup Newspapers) was on screen for something like an hour at one point yesterday. A taser is clearly visible in the hands of the officer at far left. Flicking channels, I heard at least five people ask their experts, 'Why don't they just use the taser?' Every time, the answer was the same; because the electric shock causes spasms which would probably make Moat pull the trigger. Just one expert answer would have been enough for all of the newspaper and TV news reporters on Earth. But no, they kept on asking and asking simply to fill time. And on and on it went, hour after excruciating hour, like some super-extended episode of 'Just a Minute' where the likes of Kay Burley were forced to keep talking without hesitation, repetition, deviation or, indeed, information.

The constant use of opinion instead of facts has been the worst I've ever seen. When was carte blanche given to news teams to simply make stuff up? This, from the respected BBC news website this morning:

'Senior officers will be relieved that a man who threatened to kill police and members of the public was successfully contained with only one further casualty - the gunman himself.'

They will? Oh good. No source quoted but it's probably true, maybe. The SKY News website carries a story that centres on the fact that one of their reporters was close by. No, really. That's the story!

'Sky Reporter Watched Metres From Moat Drama.

James Matthews watched as police negotiators tried to persuade fugitive gunman Raoul Moat to surrender.'

Well, that and the fact the reporter was an arse. The report goes on with:

'At one stage the police were reassuring him and saying no one would hurt him.
"Raoul there's no one behind you," he said."No one has hurt you yet and nobody is going to hurt you."

It was a constant process of reassurance, as though Moat was hidden and the police were trying to coax him out.There were repeated reassurances, trying to build up trust.

But I was behind Moat.

Without hearing the approach of a heavily armed officer, I almost felt his breath on my cheek as the officer crawled behind Moat high on the riverbank.Using industrial language, he whispered his instructions to me and my cameraman that we should make our exit fairly sharply.'

Fucking right you should! (Apologies for my own 'industrial language'. Whatever happened to the terms 'swearing' and 'bad language'?) Police negotiators are trying to reassure a dangerous, armed and suicidal man that there's no one behind him ... so why are you there you oik?

The press, of course, have treated the whole incident with customary calm and collected wisdom and advice. The Sun's sensitive headline today is 'Moat dead: Madman dies in hospital one hour after shooting himself.' Oh, so he was mad? Thank goodness for medical experts. The Mirror is slightly better but the story is already as cold as Moat himself and entices us instead to look at:

'Cheryl Cole, JFK, Genghis Khan and the top 10 famous people to be struck down with Malaria ...'


I gave up buying newspapers a few years ago because standards of journalism semed to be sliding down the pan. Papers regularly publish stories based on personal belief, opinion and prejudiced vitriol. We've seen the survivors of the Dunblane shootings accused of wasting their lives. We've seen Stephen Gately's death blamed on the fact he was gay. It's sickening. And the fact that so many sub-editors are being laid off means that a lot more of this crap is slipping through the sieve along with a welter of basic spelling mistakes and poor grammar. I didn't think that the newspapers would survive with the arrival of 24 hour news channels. They have done so by not being newspapers any more. My worry now is that TV news - even the BBC - is starting to slide into that same pit. The Moat coverage was shoddy, piece-meal and mostly pointless.

Oh, and before I go, I have to have a slight dig at the Twitterati too. I'm a huge fan of the service. I'm also someone with a deeply black sense of humour, honed during 30 years as a cop. But even I couldn't believe the sheer tastelessness and heartlessness of some of the supposed jokes people were posting. Come on guys ... the injured were still critically ill in hospital and his first murder victim was barely cold before you started. Have a heart for those left behind. I've lost count of the number of times I had to knock on a door and tell someone that one of their most beloved relatives was dead. It's heart-wrenching, stomach-churning stuff to watch pure unalloyed grief. Until you've seen it yourself, don't casually inflict it. At least leave it a few days eh? Then we can all laugh - albeit uncomfortably - with you.


Anonymous said...

Sadly papers will be filled for days with what police should and shouldn't have done. Like an england football fan saying they could have beaten germany if they'd been there on the pitch. Andrew Kerr

Anonymous said...

It's good to see what I'm feeling put into proper sentences. No-one is 'relieved' when someone kills themself. I don't buy papers either.

demented-deb said...

I enjoyed this, good stuff and well said

Brett Gerry said...

What is the real truth behind the public's reaction to Raoul Moat?