16 Apr 2010
Call the Election Off...Volcanic Death Cloud Wins By Default
At least that's what the news would have you believe.
I was working the other day (that's right bitches, I work in my holidays) and had BBC News 24 on as I marked some work. During this time the whole of UK airspace was closed due to the eruptions of an Icelandic volcano and the subsequent ash cloud it created.
I have just recounted the entire story for you in one sentence.
What the BBC decided to do was devote and entire day's worth of coverage to this very simple item.
To this end, they sent every available member of their reporting staff to what seemed like every single airport up and down the land in a desperate attempt to squeeze some kind of newsworthiness out of the dead, swollen corpse of an idea it actually was.
From the studio we were flung hyperactively to Stansted airport where surely there would be some kind of riot in place as disgruntled passengers demanded the blood of whomsoever was in charge.
Quite the opposite - "well, it's a nuisance but it can't be helped" quoted the generally genial British public.
Clearly this wasn't dramatic enough for the hard-nosed editors. So we instantly cut to Glasgow where another reporter was desperately trying to think of something to say. I can understand their thinking. Glasgow, full of angry Scottish people who will probably blame the lack of flights on 'poofy Englishmen who won't fly through a bit of cloud'. Surely the good people of Glasgow would be enragedly throwing concrete bollards through plate glass windows to show their displeasure?
Nope. It was very quiet. No one around.
And that was the story for the entire country. We went from city airport to city airport looking at banks of empty check-in desks and silent terminals to prove the no one was able to fly. In fact the only sound to break the cloister-like silence was the noise of waxy-faced failed actors trying to make the cleaning lady walking past sound like groundbreaking stuff.
There is of course a sure fire way of milking a story like the fucking cash cow it isn't and that is the rolling out of a collection of experts.
One even brought some volcanic ash with him to show what it was like. We had to sit through a full fifteen minutes of the reporter rubbing it between forefinger and thumb next to the microphone just to give us poor non-volcanic ash owning plebeians a sense of just how abrasive it was.
"Can you hear the rasping?" she spluttered like she'd just discovered the female orgasm.
She then, for reasons best know to herself, smeared it over the sleeve of her coat and held it to the camera as if she'd managed to do a poo in her training potty. "Look I'm so fucking clever, I can defaecate like a grown up".
After that almost sexually exciting period of reporting the whole hideous cycle started again. No airport was left unseen. There must have been a competition to see how many different ways the journalists could say 'usually this airport is really busy but now there is no one around'. Well, no shit. All the flights have been canceled.
My favourite quote had to be "it's no longer an airport, more like a shopping centre that you aren't allowed to leave". What a simile! What imagery! What bollocks!
In any case it made me realise that rolling news is at best an amusing way of spending an afternoon if you have nothing more productive to do with your life.
I say this because watching highly paid telly types attempt to make 30 seconds of news last for twenty minutes was like watching The Office.
Cringing, uncomfortable but ultimately one of the funniest things you'll see.