Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Silence is Distance

One of the things I was taught while getting my Bachelor of How To Be A Functioning Alcoholic aka Journalism was the importance of proximity. It seems pretty simple in theory - people want to hear about things that effect them. Sometimes it seems kind of harsh, but it's true. Ten people dying in a bus crash three blocks away from your house is more likely to pique the interest of a general readership than ten thousand people dying three thousand miles away from your country.
But up until now I'd never really cared too much about the emotional effects of this neccesary but undeniably callous practice.
In Australia the Queensland floods are top priority, as they should be. Newspapers are dedicating pages of both print and web space to the ongoing story, and on television special bulletins are the order of the day. It's a topic of high importance, and carries a high emotional charge.
In Britain, however, the floods are relegated to second or third on the news bulletins. On The Guardian website the flood story is trumped by school league tables, and The Sun puts it below both the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor and a story about a footballer's alleged "Vegas sex romp" (not actually all that surprising from the Sun admittedly, but still).
On the one hand it makes me sad that the suffering of people back home is considered to be of such mild importance. But in some ways I'm glad. The lukewarm public interest here in the problems of Australia - one of Britain's closest allies - has opened my eyes to the way I've always viewed the great problems of the world. I'm not saying I'm going to drop everything and dedicate myself to a becoming the next Mother Theresa, but I'd like to think I can keep this newfound awareness until I find a sensible - and effective  - way to put it to use.

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