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Lost in Meta-News

A very inspiring English Literature teacher once told me that all poems were about poetry, and all plays were about plays. Increasingly my newsreaders seems to be telling me that all news is about news.

Now I happen to think that poetry and plays should be about other things too, but what my teacher said stuck in my mind, because for literature by and large it is true.

The artistic process is inherently a meta-process, because any medium we engage, from blank page to blank canvas to blinking cursor, acts a mirror to ourselves. Ultimately when we engage with the world of imagination we only have ourselves as material to work with.

Great artistic works, like Proust, or Hamlet, or, are often acutely meta-textual, to an extent that they feel almost like organisms becoming aware of themselves. And in fact we almost define the trajectory of artistic progression as a medium’s path to supreme self-consciousness.

This is not a pipe. But it is a fantastic student poster.

But the news is different. Because the news, by and large, is one of the most essential tools we have in creating social cohesion and empathy, and to help people to understand real events in the world around them.

But it seems that finding out the news is just getting harder and harder. Because all anyone wants to tell me now is the Meta-News.

What do I mean by this exactly? Well, after reading this watch pretty much any TV news apart from the BBC World Service, or read pretty much any newspaper apart from the Financial Times, and you are likely to very quickly notice that about 50% of the airtime is devoted to coverage of the reaction to the news, or the process through which the news was obtained, or the difficulties in filming the news – with astonishingly little detail on what has ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

The modern news studio - a monument to Meta

Nowhere is this worse than in the world of 24 hour live news, in which the irregular flow of real news poses as significant threat to the much more regular flow of actual minutes and seconds. One thing that remains constant however is the speed at which people speak, film and report the news. That makes it a godsend to the rolling news editor.

This whole phenomenon went way beyond satire some time ago, though it has fed some of the very best, from Brass Eye to Charlie Brooker.

But that doesn’t make it any less disturbing to try to discover the details and impact of the Osama Bin Laden, and have to try to weed out a couple of actual facts from amongst the debris of people’s emails, footage of strange macabre people dancing in Times Square and a randomised selection of tweets.

This last area is particularly painful. News knows that email is important, and that there is every chance Twitter might be even more important. What is the response of TV news? Use it as filler. The ultimate, infinite time-filler of opinion. What’s more, a bottomless pool of opinion – which means you can easily find opinion to back the agenda of the broadcaster. Perfect.

The result – a relentless flow of jabber, which makes the angry angrier, the old-fashioned ever more befuddled, and which to the vaguely tech literate looks like an old-fashioned headmaster putting on sunglasses and trying to do some tricks on a skateboard.

All of which is silly, and infuriating, but worst of all, represents a collective shrug by the news broadcasting industry at the creative potential inherent in the most connected age of mankind, to get people to understand and empathize with news in ways never achieved before, in favour of the news equivalent of the music you hear in lifts.

It’s not all bad. Anderson Cooper on CNN is immense, and his fluency in the multi-screen world is awe inspiring – including the seamless interaction of international coverage and inside accounts on Twitter and YouTube into his reports. This is what the new golden age of newscasting could be all about.

In the meantime, the great majority of news coverage is still rather self-excited, and lost in a tedious and iniquitous spiral of-Meta News. Let’s hope it emerges soon.


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fox news = daily mail on happy pills

ok. so we all hate fox news. it is not for people like us. i shall subject myself to ten minutes of method viewing/writing, and see what conclusions i can draw.

fox news - like the daily mail, but happy about it

10:13pm: fox news is massively psyched about the fact that the queen is in new york. and that she is 84. aw, bless.

10:14pm:  a classic fox news story…priest + fraud + assumptions of sexual misconduct = screentime

10:17pm:  fox news is immensely proud of its semi-celebrity weatherman, and of the fact that its viewers baked his face onto a disgusting looking cake.

10:19pm:  fox news is watched by the kind of people that are more likely to buy a $899 bed if they are given a free gift of a small stuffed sheep or a plastic alarm clock.

10:21pm:  it is day 78 of the ‘BP crisis’ (sic). there are also many other big numbers associated this story, but few animals. fox news is confident that oil-eating bacteria are the answer. they are apparently ‘nature’s little housekeepers’.

10:22pm:  the people who create their credit sequences have definitely, DEFINITELY never seen the Day Today.

10:23pm:  the weather coverage is by far the most informative and accurate section of the news coverage.

10:25pm:  ‘in the news tonight, a submarine transformed to carry tonnes of cocaine – and that’s a wrap’ (queue laughter)

10:25-10:26pm:  ample to cover world news

10:30:  people like parks apparently. this is getting a much longer slot than the poitical situation in the middle east. in classic new york style, they seem to be including golf courses under the categorisation of parks. fox overall seems relatively in favour of privatising parks. this does not sound to me like a good idea…

conclusion…fox news…

LIKES: privatisation, the queen, the weather, pompous credit sequences, sexy priests, cocaine

DISLIKES: the environment, the world, the news

STYLE: cheerful, flippant, excitable, tanned, insane

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