30 March, 2009

Good News For People Who Love Bad News

The latest post at Bad Science has me creasing my brow. Not that that's unusual - Ben Goldacre's Guardian column (granted, I tend to read it 'second-hand' online) is pretty consistent but this week he makes a point about journalism in suicide cases that put me heavily in mind of the first episode of Charlie Brooker's new series Newswipe.

I've actually not been that huge a fan of Brooker - comedy's a hit and miss thing and I'm not hugely forgiving at the best of times. Charlie's heavily purile streak has been enough to put me off in the past - while Screenwipe certainly had its moments, it doesn't take a truly great wit to find humour in sub-par TV, so it often seemed a poor replacement for half-watching with a group of friends.

But there's a sickness in journalism that needs confronting: rife with spin and sensationalism, prizing production over content and self-obsessed to a ludicrous degree, it's already a much maligned profession and Brooker is in worthy territory here, cutting it down to size. His irreverent approach, relentless cynicism, and eye for a telling clip are actually a perfect combination (the editing in this program is really excellent, maybe the key to the whole shebang). This may be his true vocation.

There's a welcome appearance from the absurd resident poet Tim Key, and a segment explaining the convergence of PR and journalism. Spleens are well and truly vented. A brief section on re-branding the recession is a slight misfire, but Brooker's punchy treatment of stories in the news is great, and would seem right at home on Have I Got News For You.

And finally, the bit that puts me in mind of Goldacre (from about the 24 minute mark), which above all the rest I'd recommend watching. You'd struggle to claim that it's funny when Charlie picks up on the recent coverage of mass-shooting in Germany and contrasts the advised media coverage with the actuality. Like Goldacre's article, Newswipe highlights the callous disregard for 'the public interest' in a field where it should be most critical. There's a combination of malignancy and insanity there that has to be rooted out.

Of course, it's a dysfunction we can probably blame on no-one but ourselves. The irony would of course appeal to few people more than to that perennial misanthrope, Charlie Brooker.

Newswipe airs Wednesdays, 22:30 on BBC4. At time of writing, episode one was available on the BBC's iPlayer here, for a further 5 days.


Sailence the Noise said...

That's a lie, Rob. You LAAAAVVV Brooker. I was overly terrified newswipe would be shit, because of the news part. But Brooker is basically the sex- disappointment with him should never be anticipated.

unfire said...

I do indeed laaaavvv Brooker, although I'm not certain that he is indeed the sex. I approve of his application to bastard journalists.

I intend to watch episode 2 soon.