Written by News

The Blame Game

[Update] Private Eye sums all of this up succinctly:

I’ve never watched Love Island. It’s not my kind of programme. Likewise, I don’t watch Strictly these days, and so some people in the public eye tend to slip past me.

But none of that means I’m without empathy for someone who, for whatever reason, has reportedly taken their own life.

On social media, there has been a lot of hand-wringing, and digging through tabloid press coverage of the person involved and coverage of them, especially surrounding a recent legal case.

In return, the tabloid press is busily pointing fingers at social media, where the modus operandi seems to be saying what you like about anyone without concern for them or any personal repercussions.

It’s worth reading The Samaritans’ media guidelines of reporting such celebrity deaths incidentally.

“Avoid placement of stories on the front page with large headlines, or making this the lead bulletin, as this can sensationalise the story.”

Hmm.

“Avoid speculation of causes or simplistic explanations – bear in mind that suicide is complex and seldom the result of a single factor, it is likely to have several inter-related causes.”

Hmm.

We can make no assumptions.

But I will point out that if we’re going to look at how we treat celebrities – be they reality TV presenters and contestants, or members of the Royal Family – I think the soul searching needs to be a little wider.

Tabloid papers, and increasingly, websites, do treat people has human fodder for their “content” operations. But they do that in the knowledge that people click on it. I don’t think any executives at The Sun or The Daily Mirror will be that worried about putative newspaper boycotts, because the people talking about it weren’t going to buy a newspaper anyway. But they might very well click on a link.

Especially if that link is the Mailonline.

A search limiting results to a single news website

Click on those links and you’re actively supporting those organisations and ensuring that they churn out more of the same.

No ifs; no buts.

And the same goes for social media. I tend to operate my social media by the rule that I won’t write anything about anybody that I wouldn’t say to their face.

Far too many people seem far too happy to say thoroughly obnoxious and hateful things about people from the safety of their keyboards or mobile screens.

I’m not going to kid myself that anything’s going to change as a consequence of this weekend’s tragic news. A few papers will pull down some articles. Some Tweets will get deleted.

And yet, I’ve no doubt that in a couple of weeks or so (if that long), when I enter a reality show contestant’s name in a Twitter or Facebook search, or do a Google News search, I will find plenty of new awfulness. It will be very personal.

It’s not just media that needs to change, it’s society that needs to change.