The other morning I was doing an interview on BBC Radio 4.
As I left I met a producer I knew.
He said “How’s business?”
I said “Pretty grim, but I guess it’s that way for everyone right now.”
He said “Not us.”
I said “You’re kidding. The news is so bad I don’t even listen to the radio in the morning because it makes me depressed.”
He smiled and said “Well bad news is good news for us.”
And I realised, as someone who works on a news programme, he’s right.
News isn’t when nothing bad happens.
News isn’t when everything’s okay.
No one turns the news on to hear that nothing’s changed.
News is when something happens that you just have to know about.
News is a big event.
Something you’ve got to find out about.
And that’s usually bad news.
A natural disaster somewhere in the world: floods, earthquake.
A plane crash: hundreds dead.
A terrorist bomb, if it’s Europe or America.
A celebrity dies.
A potential virus outbreak.
Economic meltdown across world markets.
Anything that might affect us, that we’ve got to know about, be prepared for.
Almost like a warning.
And if there is no bad news, that’s a problem for the news channels.
Especially the rolling 24 hour news channels.
The ones whose product is nothing but the news.
Now if you’re a retailer and you’re selling news, what happens if your supply dries up?
And, if the news is your product, what do you do if there isn’t any?
If you’ve got no product.
If no one’s manufacturing your product.
You have to manufacture it yourself.
You have to manufacture news.
Which means bad news.
If you can’t find bad news, you have to build up stories into bad news.
You have to create bad news.
Otherwise you’ve got no product.
And it makes perfect sense.
Now we’ve got at least half a dozen 24 hour rolling news channels on satellite.
As well as competing 10 o’clock news broadcasts on the major terrestrial channels.
Also lots of phone-in chat radio stations that need something to discuss.
Something that will get people animated, upset, needing to fill the airwaves with talk and opinion.
News programmes/channels/networks have changed from retailers to manufacturers and suppliers.
“Man steps on pin” isn’t news.
So it has to become a need to look at pin-related accidents.
How the NHS are coping.
The amount of germs found on the average pin.
Interviews with people who’ve had bad treatment.
Repercussions from funding cuts.
Lack of pin-related aftercare.
Pin support groups.
The responsibility of pin manufacturers.
What are local councils doing about pins on the street?
Does Cameron have a pin policy?
Milliband and Balls on the heartless, inept Tory approach to the pin problem.
An exposé on ‘The safety pin: How safe are they REALLY?’
And so on and so on, until you’re sick of it.
And if there’s a real crisis…..
Well that’s a feeding frenzy.
The whole business makes what we do look moral and responsible by comparison.