Monday, 21 July 2014

24 Hour News: "So, what's the latest..?"

Catching up with the internet today, many of you will be aware of the incident involving Sky News reporter, Colin Brazier, going through the personal belongings and luggage of a passenger who died on flight MH17 in Ukraine.

A mistake made under pressure..?

 My first reaction on watching it was, "What the hell was he thinking?" Many of you made your feelings known on social media channels. Outrage, disgust and questioning why the reporter made that decision to do what he did, live on air. It was most certainly a mistake in my view, speaking as a tv news cameraman.

I then got to thinking about why. Why did an award winning, respected and talented reporter think that this was an ok thing to do? I then remembered all the times i have stood at a major incident, linked up to a satellite feed point, partnered with a reporter and trying to keep up with the demands of the 24 hour news channels.

Watch any 24 hour news operation and the same news will be told every 15 minutes, with the major stories at the top of the hour and at 15 minute intervals which normally include a weather update and some sport. Unless anything happens, that news cycle will go on all day, every day with the occasional break for scheduled programmes run by the channel.

The biggest and most incessant question the reporter will be asked is: "What's the latest..?"

Every 15 minutes. "What's the latest..?"

9 times out of 10 throughout the day there will be no latest information. None. Nothing will change, but the 24 hour news channel will insist on asking: "What's the latest..?"

Remember that the really big stories, like the tragedy of flight MH17 will be broadcast for days or even weeks. Reporters, producers and camera operators will be dispatched to the scene to compete, compare and be different from one another in telling the story of what happened. Travelling, producing, filming and gathering of facts are of course the main job, but the 24 hour news will want a report, an update... The very latest news, of which there may be none or very little after the first few hours on the first day.

And they will want it every 15 minutes... Live.

Those of us who work this madness we call news know that finding those small snippets of information at a major scene is hard. More so i believe at the scene of an air crash in an uncontrolled war zone. You do your best, you report on what you see, you speak to those who will talk, you show and you tell.

And then after a while you start to run out of news and out of ideas for the next report in 15 minutes. You try to be creative, you try to be different, to put things into context for the news viewers.

Let me be straight with you. This show of internet outrage shouldn't be about Murdochs' Men rifling through innocent victims belongings. Its about a reporter who i think made an error of judgement in what is a tough, live and dangerous environment with the pressure to keep telling the news, to update, to "Give us the latest."

He has a job to do in telling us the news the best he can. He even realised his mistake live on air. I would be inclined to give him a break, because 15 minutes isn't long to come up with something new, refreshing, different, engaging and newsworthy.

Maybe it's time we took a look at the 15 minute cycle in 24 hour news, and the pressure we put the news crews through in order to 'Feed the news beast... Live.' That would be a good start.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.