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Extra, Extra

August 12, 2010

Blogging has fallen by the wayside slightly as I’ve actually been quite busy over the last week. I’ve been being sociable and have started my work placement. This is not as terrifying as I was expecting but unfortunately my body hasn’t realised this so am having a bout of insomnia. Therefore have been a bit wiped out. However this seems to have worked in my favour, I started writing this on Friday but events since then mean I now have more to write about.   This is my first attempt at writing something that isn’t purely self indulgent but it is basically just me agreeing with someone else opinion, so I’m easing in gently. Here goes.

Marina Hyde writes a satirical (ish, i’m not quite sure that’s the word but it’ll do) ‘celebrity’ column in the Guardian every Friday. It’s usually worth a read, or a at least a skim, but this week it particularly caught my eye as it was mostly dedicated to the coverage given to Naomi Campbell’s appearance  at Charles Taylor’s trial for war crimes. Hyde briefly addresses the issues of Naomi’s initial refusal to appear and her attitude towards the trial (terrible inconvenience), but the main focus is the amount of coverage the big news networks gave to her testimony. The BBC News channel had near blanket coverage, as did other major networks. Now, its a big trial regarding some serious and hideous charges against Taylor, so it seems reasonable that it receives some big attention.  But it’s been going on since 2007 and this is the first time its really been given this amount of coverage, at least by mainstream media. I’m not fully aware of the charges put to Taylor but I’m fairly sure the matter Campbell’s evidence is relating to isn’t the worst of his crimes. Which poses the question, why is it getting so much attention now? As Hyde so rightly points out, its because a celebrity is involved. No matter the seriousness of the trial, its taken a celebrity to make it newsworthy. Since Friday this has become even more apparent. Campbell isn’t the only celebrity to give evidence, her former agent (not sure she counts as celebrity but she helps make my point) and Mia Farrow have also been on the stand. Their evidence contradicts Campbell’s. Generally however the focus of the media is not on how this creates difficulties for the trial, but on the whether a cat fight is going to break out between the witnesses and the possible motives behind the contradictions. To reiterate, its a war crimes trial, against a man who is accused of cannibalism and ordering the murder of thousands of people . The angle we’re getting is ‘FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT’. I despair. I have many, many issues with modern media, especially with regards to its role in politics, and this obsession with celebrity is definitely  one of them .

Since reading Hyde’s article I’ve become more aware of stories that are only stories because of the involvement of a celebrity. Would we  really be hearing about presidential candidates in Haiti if Wyclef Jean wasn’t amongst them? What saddens me most is that I know why news is delivered in this way- because that’s what sells. The media is in no way blameless in perpetuating this, but the public are the ones who buy more newspapers or watch more news in response. Its a viscous circle.  I can rant and rave, but I don’t think I really knew about Taylor’s crimes before Campbell became involved. I’ve taken some time to look at the background of the trial, but most wouldn’t, especially those my age. In a media centric world, who should take responsibility to inform the populace about world affairs?

There are my opinions and shit. I’m quite proud of that. However here’s the article, it’s what I was getting at, but better:

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