It is here. The moment that all TV, radio, newspaper and internet editors dread. Silly season is now officially upon us.
For the uninitiated it goes like this. Parliament is in recess and all the newsmaking MPs have buggered off to Tuscany. As have all the senior journalists. As have all the readership/listnership. Which means fewer advertisers and more pages or airtime to fill with news. But there isn’t any. And there aren’t any journalists of any decent calibre left in the country to write what little there is. And this leads to two depressing things happening.
First comes the desperate second stringers, freelancers, local hacks, graduates and shifters all desperate to try and impress the editors in giving them a top job. It means that these low rent hacks, who have no contacts and little experience of playing the big game, will do anything and everything to try and make the smallest of stories the biggest thing since Brexit.
The will be no nuancing, no caveats, no subtlety. The will be lies, mistruths and halftruths – anything to get that byline and hope that no one will be determined enough to demand a correction. The more benign the news story the more of a screaming headline it will generate. And if that doesn’t fit the story or it is simply made up then make the headline a question which, after reading the piece, will inevitably have the answer of ‘no’.
Is this the most dangerous man in Britain?
Does cabbage cause cancer?
Did martians create these crop circles?
Papers have the same number of pages and have to publish whether there is anything to report or not. And they have to attract as many readers as possible. Which leads to an even lower standard of journalism.
It also means that editors will always, but always, be desperate for a nice long running story to fill those pages. Preferably a grizzly murder but a disappearance will do. A child murder. A white child murder. A white middle class child murder. A white middle class child murder of a girl. And best of all a white middle class of a girl who is photogenic.
Remember Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman? Or Madeleine McCann? Or Alice Gross? Or Tia Sharp? Rhys Jones? Baby P? Sophie Lancaster? It would be no coincidence that you do and that these famous murders and disappearances all occurred in August – silly season.
They are tragic events. Awful events for the friends and family. But they are not unusual. Two children die every week from abuse or are murdered in horrific circumstances but you won’t see their names on this list. And that is all because what constitutes news in August wouldn’t merit a paragraph in November.
So a couple of pieces of advice. Don’t bother buying papers or watching the news in August – because it isn’t news. And if you are going to kill a white photogenic middle class girl do it in the late autumn when the newspapers are distracted and not in August – that way you stand a far greater chance of getting away with it.