The Other Side of the Camera

There is a particular cliché of political news reporting on British television that involves a serious faced journalist in a smart coat explaining something to us,  standing on College Green so the camera can capture their image in front of the backdrop of the illuminated Palace of Westminster.  All the better if there are a few cars or busy looking pedestrians passing by in the distance.

It seems to be an artifice that we expect. The requirement that the report begins with ‘I’m standing outside a building I’m not allowed to go inside’, or similar.  If they’re not inside, couldn’t give their reports from anywhere? It seems though, that we need the visual clues provided by the backdrop for us to be able to understand the news.

On the television screen it always looks a reasonably slick production, the reality, inevitably is much more prosaic.  I was walking past Westminster last week and witnessed two rival broadcasters, with their own crews and lights, standing within 6 feet of each other, visibly straightening their backs and preparing themselves to deliver words of wisdom as Big Ben struck 6.

They are behind a temporary fence which is currently preventing public access to the Green: signs affixed to the fencing informed me that the Green is private property.  Clearly I wasn’t the first person to question why my usual short cut was barred.

What amused me most while I was circumnavigating the barriers was watching one of the journalists trying to find the ‘press gate’ (a moveable section of the fence secured by a padlock) to hit his mark under the arc lights.

I sort of admire their degree of concentration, given how incongruous, and vaguely ridiculous they look.

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  1. “I sort of admire their degree of concentration, given how incongruous, and vaguely ridiculous they look.”


    LOL, that there is the _cream_ of journalism. Pretty or august enough to present. They think nothing of looking ridiculous, because in the perfectly vile world of journalism, they’ve made it.

    It’s nothing like as disgusting, dehumanising and as barrel scraping as the rest of what jounalists may have to do. They’re in the pink, they got a decent job, getting paid, mostly very well, and they are regarded as, “The talent,” by their crews.

    I’m on the TELLY, man! 🙂


    • Brendan, I’m not sure I share such a low opinion of them – I think it’s up to the viewer/reader to filter and to interpret the accuracy of what they’re saying. There is certainly a nasty prurience to much of the red top journalism in the UK at the moment, but I do think journalists who are doing their job properly can throw light on areas otherwise hidden from view. It’s the fetish for standing outside buildings to file reports that puzzles me – they might as well stand in front of a picture….

      • Rowena,

        To clarify…I don’t have a low opinion of journos in general. I’ve worked among them too many years.

        It’s the job itself, and us public with our tastes which make journalism a rotten job, especially nowadays.

        However, once again it is going through an earth shaking revolution. Who knows where we’ll be when it all shakes out?

        Can you imagine having to interview Simon Cowell, or presenting 24 hour news?


      • I’d neither fancy interviewing SC nor indeed rootling around in the dustbins of someone who’s in a Soap….I hope serious journalism survives the current convulsions.

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