In the parallel world inhabited by news editors, bad is good, terrible is terrific and a major tragedy just as the school holidays are starting is totally bloody brilliant.
After two weeks of great headlines which rose to a crescendo with the appearance of Murdoch and son before House of Commons Select committee the hacking story was obviously on its last legs – at least for now.
It would have taken a full confession from Prime Minister David Cameron that he had personally hacked Ed Miliband’s mobile to have kept the story alive on the front pages.
The daily disclosures had caused a serious outbreak of Murdoch fatigue for which there is no known cure.
Then just at the very moment when a declaration of the official launch of the silly season seemed inevitable, along came the most dreadful atrocity from the most unexpected of all places – Norway.
Marvellous thought the news editors as they leapt into action pulling in the experts to create the instant consensus view that this was obviously an al qaeda multi-target terrorist conspiracy.
Then we had one of the most pronounced reverse ferrets for years as the awful truth dawned that this crack al qaeda team in the Mumbai mould was actually a single, blond Masonic Norwegian with ridiculous extreme rightwing views.
A new set of experts was rapidly called in to discuss the politics and motives of extreme European rightwing groups and we were off and running again without scarcely missing a beat.
In the world of 24-hour news you need to have a flexible mind above all things.
By the Saturday morning the full horror of what had happened on Utoya Island became apparent and the chase was on to find out everything possible about the neo-Nazi Anders Breivik, 32, his links with London and the moving stories of the young people who survived and those who did not.
Just great news for the Sundays and the weekend news bulletins.
It might have been the second day of the story but this was a very unusual second day. It was actually the first day when the scale and true seriousness of the situation became obvious for the first time.
Then like something out of a journalist’s training course where a hypothetical last minute breaking news story is always tossed in to disrupt proceedings Amy Winehouse died an inconvenient death.
How irritating. Couldn’t she have waited a couple of days and then she could have been given the full, unambiguous dead tragic star/hero treatment without any Norwegian neo-Nazis getting in the way.
But alas there was no doubt about it. The 27-year old Jewish singer with the jazzy contralto voice and drink and drug problems was definitely dead.
A choice would have to be made. Do you lead on Amy the famous, talented, notorious, celebrity from North London or the deaths of perhaps seventy dead, unknown teenagers who had actually died more than 24 hours earlier.
How many dead anonymous European teenagers, or for that matter dying children in the Horn of Africa, do you need to outweigh one dead British rock singer?
The anecdotal evidence at the time was that it was the individual tragedy that seemed to shock most.
It was news. It had just happened and people had just heard about it on the radio or television and said almost involuntarily: “Isn’t it sad about Amy,” naturally identifying with the almost inevitable saga of the highly talented young woman who had apparently drunk herself to death.
But news editors had to chose and the vast majority chose the events in Norway.
In a way newspaper executives have it easier than television duty editors. They have an old-fashioned front page to deal with and they hedge their bets by putting both stories on the front.
In almost every case they made the events in Norway the “splash” and put “Amy Winehouse Dies” as a sort of banner headline across the top or the bottom of the page.
The Sunday Telegraph shrunk the front page news about Amy to a tiny earpiece that would have been easy to miss, presumably on the grounds that its readers would not be very well acquainted with albums such as Back to Black.
The News of the World, we can safely predict had it still existed, would have not had a moment’s hesitation before splashing on The Lonely Drugs and Drink Death of Tragic Amy.
The broadcasters who really had to choose between the two tragedies were divided.
Both the BBC and ITV decided to lead with Norway while giving extensive coverage to the Winehouse death.
Only Sky, after considerable internal debate, decided to lead with Whitehouse, mainly because it was new, and news, compared with a second day story.
The Sun had do doubts. It followed Amy Lay Dead For Six Hours with I’ve Lost My Dear Love Amy.
Does all this soul-searching matter? If both stories are well covered does anybody really care whether one is first or second in the running order.
The answer seems to be that people do care about the relative values ascribed by journalists to stories. Instinctively they register the moral valuations involved and often disagree about the choices made.
Show business journalists were outraged that anyone in their right mind would even think of leading with anything other than Amy Whitehouse.
“Civilians” tended to argue the opposite just as vociferously. How could anyone think the hardly unexpected premature end of a talented but self-destructive pop star more important than the attack on an entire democratic society?
There is a larger issue about the arrival of big all-encompassing stories such as Murdoch, Breivik or Amy Whitehouse.
They push all other stories to the margins whether threats to the Euro, the US financial crisis or famine in Africa.
It would be truly tragic if thousands of children were to die in Somalia because we were all engaged elsewhere and news organisations can only manage to concentrate on one, or at most two, sad stories at the same time.
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