“Today’s newspapers will be lining tomorrow’s wastepaper bin”: The Dangers of the 24 Hour News Cycle

The opinions expressed in this article are that of the author and are not representative of the views of The Hysteria Collective as a whole.

“Today’s newspapers will be lining tomorrow’s wastepaper bin”… the words of William from the rom-com 1999 classic Notting Hill unfortunately still rings true today.

In the past year, we have seen the sensationalist media coverage profit off tragic events, stories of police corruption, institutional racism, relentless misogyny… the list goes on. From the brutal murder of George Floyd, to the disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard, the lives of these people and the families they have left behind are forgotten by the perpetual 24 hour news cycle. Flowers from Clapham Common bandstand wilt, black Instagram squares get swallowed up by selfies- faces fade but suffering continues.

The danger of the 24 hour news cycle is not necessarily what is published in those limelight hours but instead what is left unspoken, whose voices are left unheard and who is forgotten when the media and the public get bored of sitting up and listening.

Just because we no longer hear as much about the devastation of the lives of refugees and asylum seekers as we did in 2015 does not mean there was not 35 million forcibly displaced children under 18 in the world at the end of 2020. The lives of these people are rendered invisible when simply placed under a number or a label rather than examining and understanding each individual situation.

Just because we are not told every evening by the 5 o’clock news about Black Lives Matter protests across the world does not mean in the UK the stop and search rate per 1,000 people is not 54 for Black people but only 6 for White people.

Just because women have not chained themselves around Clapham Bandstand, does not mean I do not hold my keys between my fingers when I walk home alone at night or that I cannot rest until I get that “Home safe xx” text from my friend. 

We can never trust just one media source, and we can never trust the news to simply fall into our laps. I am not saying we live in a dystopian society from a Margaret Atwood novel (… or maybe I am) but the media will always be driven by profit. What news story will sell? Driven by capitalism, journalists are providing a service and need to know where they are going to get the most hits, without truly seeking to educate people. 

For example, around the time of Sarah Everard’s death the news was consumed with stories of vigils and Reclaim These Streets movements, followed by stories of police brutality at the Clapham Common bandstand. Now, 4 months on from Sarah’s disappearance, the news is no longer saturated with these stories but instead with the latest government scandal or the news of It’s (Not) Coming Home. Voices remain silenced, and injustice continues.

An Instagram account under the tag @_etherealtruth published a post about the recent racial abuse that England team football players Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, and Jadon Sancho received following the final’s penalty shootout, asking “What reminder will you need next year?”. Yet again, this highlights how there needs to be a big punchy headline before people sit up and take notice. Despite the events of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, the events following the England final outcome seem to have somehow shocked people, demonstrating how empty people’s commitments are to listening to and learning from people’s stories.

We cannot keep getting bored and being tired of listening. We need to keep putting the work in to know the full picture, to educate ourselves using a variety of sources. The 24 hours news cycle allows people to ignore issues and deny the injustices occurring around us. We can lay the blame at politicians’ doors or the England ‘fans’ or the wolf whistlers but we also need to start to look inward. Look at ourselves, look at how well we call out family members and friends behind close doors… “Oh, it’s just a joke” or “She shouldn’t have gone out wearing something like that”. Look at how we may neglect to understand different experiences. Look at our own prejudices we are ashamed to hold.

Enough is enough.

Image courtesy of Susan Q Yin.

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