Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Smoke screen

Even after the "free trade agreement" between New
Zealand and China had been signed, news bulletins on
both TV1 and TV3 continued to lead with the fatal fire
at the coolstore outside Hamilton. The fire occurred on
Saturday night, and by Monday night there remained
only smouldering ruins, but still this item of news took
precedence over the Beijing signing. The latter will
have an incalculable effect on the lives of every New
Zealander for many years to come—but of course the
pictures weren’t so interesting, were they? Nowhere
near as dramatic as smoking ruins and grief-stricken
firemen. Thus the impact of the visual (the physical
images we see) dictates news priorities, diminishing
the power of the abstract (the invisible meaning
of an event). Which also explains why stories about
crime and violence dominate television news bulletins
out of all proportion to their importance. Strictly
speaking, TV news is not news at all but a kind of action
movie with narrative interludes.

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