I was at a conference most of yesterday, at a dinner in the evening and so missed both the march and most of the coverage.
Fiona kept me in touch with a few text messages, mainly saying how big the crowds were and how good the mood.
When I did catch the odd glimpse either on the radio in a car or on a tv screen in a hotel foyer, or when finally I got home and had a proper look, the focus seemed to be entirely on violence. Talk about the actions of a few drowing out the peaceful message of the many.
The broadcasters will doubtless say they couldn’t possibly ignore the clashes between protesters and police, or the storming of shops. The question is whether they had to focus on it virtually to the exclusion of all else.
I sensed from twitter than Ed Miliband’s speech was just a few paragraphs old when the broadcasters decided a bit of aggro kicking off elsewhere was more newsworthy.
In an era when lots of young people define ‘being famous’ as their stated ambition, anyone can have their 15 minutes’ worth by getting themselves near a camera and hurling abuse, paint or missiles at a police officer in a helmet.
I’m not saying the media should ignore them. But they’d be doing a better job of covering the event, particularly when doing so live, if they adopted a sense of perspective. The assumption that all people will want to see are scenes of violence and abuse is wrong. It is easy, lazy TV for stations with too many hours to fill, and the thugs – or ‘anarchists’ as we are supposed to call them – are happy to fill them.
This is not a new phenomenon. I remember at the 1998 European Summit in Cardiff when TB said he was ashamed to be English as England’s football fans rioted around Marseille.
Hour upon hour of wallpaper TV was devoted to giving a platform to a few hundred yobs. ‘We’ll be back in Marseille as soon as the next outbreak of violence erupts,’ said the presenter ‘but now for the weather.’