Well done, the Nottingham Post. Just when I think you’re improving, and actually conducting responsible, inquisitive journalism, you piss on your chips from a great height. How? With a piece that was sensationalist, cynical and downright crass.
As I have mentioned here in the last couple of posts, a teenage girl took her life, and this triggered a huge outpouring of grief that manifested itself in the floral display in the square. I wrote how this touching, charming act was so affecting, and I expected the local media to have a look. But -as far as I can see- they didn’t bother. It even slipped below the radar of the Beeston Express, despite the whole issue of the Square being a major issue right now.
That was until today, as I had a flick through the Post whilst sipping on a Bean fresh-brew. The front cover splashed with the news two teenagers had died within a week of each other, and went to great pains to try and insinuate a common link between the two teenagers, despite the police pointing out they were seperate incidents.
The ‘evidence’? They knew each other on Facebook. And, up to the age of seven, they attended the same primary school, though in different years. Compelling, evidently. Not at all tenuous , and a rather sickly silly attempt of the journalist (take a bow, Delia Monk) to try and get the front page. Well, you did very well there, but lets put your story under scrutiny, ok?
There was a very famous case a few years ago of ‘cluster suicides’ in the Welsh town of Bridgend. The Post even references it, and I can almost hear the oily noise of their journos crossing their fingers that such a story would throw Beeston/ Nottingham into the media glare.
The suicides there were massively picked up on once journalists picked up on the case of a pretty girl called Natasha: the media narrative then was there was an ‘internet suicide cult’ gripping Newport, as she was the 13th suicide within 12 months. The media descended, and obligingly, the youth of Bridgend gave the story feet and started topping themselves with a rhythm perfect to keep the headlines churning for some weeks.
Mostly unqualified commentators did their best to explain why this was happening; so endless opinion pieces each with a non-evidence based theory, mainly ‘well, its a bit dreary in Wales, isn’t it?’, or handily hooking the story on any of their own personal bug-bears, be it the Internet, goth music or having Welsh parents. Hands were wrung, heads solemnly shaken, and not one single voice pointed out the very obvious thing: they themselves were driving it.
An expert on teenage suicide, Doctor Lars Johansson of Umeå University, Sweden, pointed out after looking into the deaths:
“I was surprised about the publishing of the names and pictures of the victims and the surviving family. I do think that the media coverage in such detail contributed to the formation of this cluster. Teenagers are impulsive, and most suicide clusters described have concerned the young, including young adults … What struck me was that many suicides appeared to have taken place in ‘public’ – they did not hide away, they committed suicide by hanging themselves in public areas, as if they wanted to be found and noticed, ‘Look, here I am!'”
And once the media scrum tired of the story and moved on, the suicide rate dropped back to the national norm. Coincidence?
So I’d like to ask the Post why they ran this story today, and so prominantly, so sensationally? Why did you have to throw in that innuendo, that nudge-nudge wink-wink attempt at conspiracy? Was it for the families? They both gave statements, but god only knows what confusion and torture there heads are in? Was it out of some sort of puritanical zeal: “yes, we the Post can stop this thing in its tracks!”?
Or was it shoddy, nasty journalism, thrown onto the front page to liven up a slow news day with not a thought for any consequence?
And while I’m here, can I also make another point? Garfield stopped being funny circa 1986. Get a new cartoon, please.