By GARRY HOWE
THERE’S nothing like a royal baby to expose the banality of the 24-hour news cycle.
Media street has been locked in a feeding frenzy for days as reporters from around the world have been camped out at key London locations waiting to hail the arrival of William and Kate’s first born.
The media these days sets out to entertain, as well as inform. This coverage was certainly entertaining, but mainly through its inability to inform.
At one stage on Monday night Channel 9 crossed during Hamish and Andy’s Gap Year escapades in Asia for breaking news on the impending arrival.
They showed ground-breaking footage of grandfather-to-be Prince Charles having a microphone shoved under his nose while walking up the street and imparting the gripping news that there was nothing to report.
In case viewers missed that revelation, a caption soon appeared at the bottom of the screen under the headline ‘Breaking News’ reading: Charles says ‘no news yet’.
Hilarious! Hamish and Andy could not have done a better job at keeping viewers amused.
The banality continued through the night. Each of the major networks had posted talking heads outside the key London venues – St Mary’s Hospital, Buckingham Palace and Westminster.
With no news to report, they had to resort on crossing back and forwards to take turns at imparting largely ill-informed and un-sourced opinion on what may happen next. Any real news came via Twitter feeds that could have been read out anywhere in the world.
When the news finally broke around 5.30am our time that the happy couple had welcomed a boy the coverage went into overdrive. Ironically, the news came on 24 July – or 24/7!
The highlight, broadcast simultaneously on all major networks, was extended footage of an empty easel that royal staff would use to post news of the birth. We learned that the same easel helped deliver news of William’s birth back in 1981.
Priceless stuff – but the trick was to keep talking through the 24-hour news cycle.
The events that have played out over the past couple of days are as much about network one-upmanship in a competitive market as delivering news.
The same applies to the print media – particularly in the Murdoch camp. The Herald Sun that was thrown on the front lawn around the time of the birth devoted the first five pages to news that there had not been any news on the birth.
Last week Star News Group reporter Lia Spencer (a name with real royal overtones) left on maternity leave. It seems industry standards decree that at least one of Lia’s colleagues be posted outside her Pakenham home to bring news of the birth.
Watch this space…
Footnote: It’s not a good practice to criticise other forms of media, because the karmic gods pretty much assure that our own howler is delivered in the same edition. Apologies in advance for that!