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Madeleine McCann – Welcome to the Media Circus

Posted by Daniel on May 23, 2007

BBC/APThe search for Madeleine McCann goes on and, unfortunately, so does the media coverage. Whilst I’m sure we can all agree that the media can be used effectively in order to find a missing person, there is a sense of going overboard in this case.

Take a few cute photos, a shocking ‘snatched from her bed’ plot-line and two humble, loving parents in grief and you have the recipe for a media orgy, all falling over each other to catch on to what little information can be garnered from this event. Despite the fact of thousands of British children missing, politicians walk round with a yellow ribbon adorning their sweaty jackets ‘for Madeleine’ along with The Sun, dressing their website’s masthead for all to see and generally slapping every half-baked story about her on the front page.

Naturally, it’s not a point on its own to simply say “there are thousands of people missing, why is she so special?” because it’s obvious why. It makes a great story and I agree, it should certainly be in the news as it does have a high news value. However, there comes a point where the newsers turn to users.

As BBC’s Newswatch reports (yes, I am aware it’s the Daily Mail of news criticism), there have been as many as 5 live reports from Portugal within an hour of BBC News 24 and all with different reporters. ITN has been even worse with their wall-to-wall coverage and, in my mind, ITV news is about as tabloid as TV news gets, making them as bad as The Sun in my opinion. Lots and lots of reporting… yet no developments. The nature news media dictates that celebrities must also get involved in order to raise their profile and so consequently there’s been an auction for the person who can donate the most to the reward for finding her, with media attention sold to the highest bidder. Incidentally, the reward fund now stands at £2.6 million and I’m sure the National Missing Persons Helpline can only dream of raising such a large amount of money so quickly.

After the news coverage, the celebrities and the donations come the moral public reaction. Not only have there been websites, blogs and other general online ‘help’ as well as the much-reported offline support too. Cycling along Sunderland’s high street today I even saw a poster asking us to report any sightings of her, stuck to a phone box.

Put simply, there is nothing more special about this little 4-year-old girl than there is with any other British child. The family are certainly lucky to get this media attention and would be fools not to use it – and the media are right to report it. However, now that her face is out there and everyone knows what she looks like and what happened to her, the reporting should slow down to a trickle until there is actually something new to report.

It must be considered though, that this is news and newspapers thrive on it, obviously. So wouldn’t they be stupid not to capitalise on this? Your comments are much appreciated.

-Daniel

Posted in BBC, ITV, Journalism, Madeleine McCann, Print, Radio, Television | 1 Comment »