THE BLOG

Irresponsible News Reporting Fans the Flames of Terrorism

14/11/2015 17:11 GMT | Updated 13/11/2016 10:12 GMT

I know I'm living in an idealistic world here, but when incidents like have happened in Paris on Friday evening take place, we need to stop filming it. The reaction cannot be to whip out a camera and take images of explosions and panic. I'm including smartphones in this too, there has to be someone else who there who feels uneasy that, in an event of human misery and terror, the reaction of some is to whip out their mobile and start videoing.

News media must stop showing it, too. Of course it is newsworthy and it ticks all of the boxes as a huge story, but TV images of fear, suffering, panic and death do nothing to stem the tide of these sorts of incident. The perpetrators want, amongst other things, fear and notoriety - and 24-hour rolling news continuously getting eyewitness reports, adding numbers to death tolls and speculating on causes just adds a petrol to an already roaring fire.

Obviously, the news can't simply ignore it and not report it. However, they can stick to facts and avoid idle speculation; with 24-hours to fill constantly, rolling news resorts to opinions on Twitter, speculation, "unconfirmed reports", eyewitness vox pops, and reporters explaining what other news networks are saying - when they're all doing exactly those things anyway.

We live in a world that is terrifying. I write this from a hotel room abroad, due to fly home in the morning, and frankly I'm scared to get on board the plane. Why make life scarier? "The longer this goes on, the better for the terrorists," one journalist said on the Paris attack, completely without irony. "They get more publicity from it."

The style in which these stories are reported glorifies the incident and fuels public panic. "There's a feeling of panic," says one commentator, before going on to cite "unconfirmed reports from social media" of something that is unofficial, which would be serious enough to make anybody in the area worry further. Why tell them that, if you have no way of knowing if it is true or not? All it does is incite more stress and panic - and that then gets reported in a self-fulfilling viscous circle.

The phrase "unconfirmed reports" is a bullshit statement that allows journalists, reporters and editors to speculate. There are "unconfirmed reports" that I've got a 12 inch cock, but that doesn't make it fucking true. "Unconfirmed reports" of weapons used, executions, automatic gunfire or anything other that cold, hard, provable facts during incidents like Friday's in Paris are irresponsible and end up just spreading misinformation.

While we're on the subject of terrorism, he's called Mohammed Emwazi. He's NOT Jihadi John. Jihadi John is a cartoon character; Jihadi John is a caricature; Jihadi John is a comedy sketch show regular - stop humanising a monster, making him cuddly and fun and not a threat. His face should not be plastered across the press at every opportunity and he should be given as little airtime and notoriety as possible. Don't speak to his old school teachers to find out what he was like as a child. Don't pester his family to see if they could have done anything to stop his radicalisation. Don't make him an anti-hero.

There is a responsibility on the news that's been lost in being the first to break a story. Just because you have new information doesn't mean you should report it. Let the police do their jobs, let the anti terror unit investigate, and stop encouraging people to be afraid by adding to speculation. The news was always seen as a gatekeeper to information, so filter what is fit for the story.

Just a few moments ago, at the time of writing, one journalist reported that one of the gunmen in the Parisian theatre shouted "praise be to Allah" before opening fire. That was based on an "unconfirmed report". As if there wasn't enough idle speculation and misinformed opinion about Islam already, that piece of information - which the reporter is still yet to find out if it's even true - could make up thousands of minds about the merits of Islam, and could incite tension.

Sources are not a few tweets or Facebook posts on social media from people whose identity cannot be verified. Sources are not other news media reports - because how can anyone know who their sources are?

A lot of this comes down to the audience, too. Perhaps this is the bit that's too idealistic, but morally viewers need to turn off TV news when it descends into speculation and guesswork or getting commentary from people on Twitter who aren't in possession of all of - or even any of - the facts.

In times when there is a horrible, on-going story taking place as there was in Paris on Friday, we need the news to be right - not first.