Creativity in a war-zone

These boys firing round after round into the sky – you can’t see anything, and after a while the noise and the guns and the slam bam, boom, over and over – well, you start to ride it, like skiing, down down down into the white, mindless, given up to it.” – ‘The Postmistress’ by Sarah Blake

I’ve never been in a war-zone and my worries and fears about guns and explosives mean I’ll probably never choose to willingly set foot in one.

Every day there’s people out there, foreign correspondents, for various newspapers, television companies and radio stations, who stand on the edges of towns and cities in war-torn countries.

I watch the news, I like to know what’s going on and I’m usually disappointed. I know the current protests in Egypt aren’t exactly a war-zone, but the reporting is the same. There’s a story to tell, fuelled with intensity and emotion and the reporters often seem to fall short. That’s my opinion anyway.

What they tell me, what the news reporters say on channels like the BBC, is minimal. It’s like someone is explaining what is happening, talking about people being injured and stating the facts. The news seems to have become facts.

I know that may sound nonsensical. News is facts. I certainly dislike the tabloid fodder that exists in this world. But I wonder where the passion is, where the love for the job is, the interest in the experience of the people on the ground.

On this occasion, the BBC reporter in question started off well and slipped in an element of emotion within the description, but I wonder whether it could be more. Perhaps my comparison of the actions of a real television channel in 2011 to a fictional radio broadcast in a novel set in 1940, are unjustified. Perhaps they’re not.

I’ll let you decide.

I transcribed the BBC reporter’s words so that you can see exactly what was said in one broadcast (and knowing the BBC well, they repeat said broadcast over and again) in order for you to directly compare it to another snippet of the broadcast made in the book I’ve been reading.

You can see by their reaction that for them it was not enough. Civilians and soldiers were hand in hand as they channelled the crowds through identity checks…more and more it looks as if they’re on the same side. The plan was to put a million people on the streets, in Cairo it was probably in the hundreds of thousands. But more than the numbers, what mattered was who they were; an old soldier with his uniform, supporters of the Muslim brotherhood and secular young men who wanted to turn it into a party. A lot here, though, didn’t feel like dancing.” – BBC News, 01/02/2011

Put yourself in the place of these men. Not a one of them wants to be the one who gets it. Still, there comes a wild, intoxicating rush where you take your heart in your hands and hurl yourself right into the teeth of danger, to forget the danger. So be it, you think, it’s all up to God – and some men. Over here, you close your eyes, do your job, and fling yourself toward it – whatever it may be.” – ‘The Postmistress’ by Sarah Blake.

The quote from ‘The Postmistress’ was the words spoken by a radio presenter in the Blitz. She spoke about what she saw in a way that is stark and descriptive and it’s got such emotion that it reaches up inside of my chest and tugs at my heart. She’s not just explaining what has happened, she’s describing it, she’s reliving it with every word that exits her mouth. She’s asking us to believe the experience of the men defending London during another night of bombs because her words are that realistic.

So I ask you, do the current journalistic skills of our biggest television channel ignite a passion for the stories they’re telling? Or is ‘The Postmistress’ giving you something to believe in?

I’m sat on the fence, about to land on ‘The Postmistress’.

I wonder if I’m missing the talent that journalism in the 21st Century has to offer. Perhaps comparing written word of a novelist with the spoken word with a television journalist is the wrong direction.

Tomorrow I plan to buy a newspaper…and there my judgements will be altered.

Or not.


*this is my alternative to January’s blog posts that I missed out on due to arriving late to #postaday2011.


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