As this is written, sheets of the week’s local news, gossip and Holy Island crossing times are being pressed, primped and folded together into tantalizing parcels to be gifted across our region. And when you open your paper first thing this morning, what will it be – a gasp of a delight or a suppressed groan?
Well now, it all depends on whether it has been a slow news week. Normally in the Borders fifty-one out of every fifty-two weeks of the year is a slow news week. If there was a 100-metre dash between Berwickshire news and a glacier, the glacier right now would be endorsing isotonic sports drinks and Aertex sweaters. For fifty-one consistent weeks of the year things not happening in the Borders is something you can depend on, like no access to an NHS dentist.
And then. Then you have that one week of the year when so much news happens it’s like Rupert Murdoch exploded over the Cheviots.
Last week was that week. One of our provincial papers had a front page on which lead news squabbled for elbow room; three – three! – main articles vied for space.
Trouble was, however, that while one of these stories was a feel-good story about a baby being born in a lay-by (very Borders, happens all the time), the other two were dark and tragic and decidedly un-feel-good. It was as if the Borders had torn a hole and let some of Out There leak in.
The effect on the reporting was startling, like the journalists had been allowed out after tea-time to play with the big boys and become over-excited. No detail was considered unnecessary, no external and internal haemorrhaging, no heart damage, no blades sinking into chests. Nothing was left out because this was sensational, this was dramatic, this only happened one week out of every fifty-two.
Of course a killing is always major news – it happens so rarely that interest naturally runs high and extensive coverage is to be expected – but in this instance NOT BAd felt that the golden rules of conciseness, clarity, and consistency counted for nothing in the face of ‘proper’ news.
Nowhere was this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach more evident than in the article regarding the sad death of a man in a fire at Wicken Fen food factory in Duns. After detailing the incident and including comments from the emergency services and MP Michael Moore (?), the article went on to inform us that Wicken Fen’s mushroom and tarragon sausages had won an accolade from PETA.
Clearly this would have been of great comfort to the dead man’s family.
So today NOT The Berwickshire Advertiser is hoping to read about a slow news week, one in which journalistic integrity has returned so we can gasp in delight over nothing ever happening.