Television Journalism – unlike its newspaper counterpart – continues to go from strength-to-strength. From the recent coverage of the Royal nuptials, to the devastating Japanese earthquake to the phone hacking saga at the News of the World, journalists and production staff have worked around the clock to make news bulletins and clips as fascinating and compelling as possible.
The best news items are the ones that catch the mood of the audience - be it short features or breaking news, the objective of news is to be something that’s new, exciting, outstanding and provoking.
But sadly, the strongest news items are made from the most sensitive and depressing subject matters.
Now, much is made of media theories and for years, sociologists have claimed that a constant media diet of violence and activity that goes against the norm has created passive audiences.
Apply this to Generation Y and the theory could be proved right. But try to apply this when images of famine and starvation are flashed up on a television screen and this theory gets turned on its head.
Yesterday evening, Channel 4 News’ lead news story was the severe food shortages and the deepening crisis in Somalia.
The United Nations has declared famine in two parts of southern Somalia, the result of one the of the worst droughts in over 50 years. An estimated 10 million people have been affected in East Africa.
As anchor Jon Snow read the headlines, he introduced a clip in which audiences witnessed malnourished and dying children, children who should be running around with abandon.
We saw pain etched on the faces of children under the age of three - their bones protruding, stomachs swollen and skin, sallow. Pain that we didn’t know children of such a young age were capable of feeling.
One of the main issues is the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabab, which control large parts of the central and southern region. Since 2009, the armed rebel group has blocked foreign aid from reaching the affected areas.
Pictures showed tens of thousands of Somalis desperately fleeing across the border into either Kenya or Ethiopia, some walking for days, with some not reaching the end of their journey.
The former President of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings, who is now the African Union envoy to Somalia, broke down when he was asked by Jon Snow about what the situation was like.
Choking back tears, Rawlings painted a picture of mass graves and widespread devastation if aid failed to reach the country by the weekend.
News: it’s supposed to shape our thinking and inform our opinions, but do we really care?
It’s astonishing to think that in the 21st Century, scores of children are dying from starvation as a result of famine.
But it begs the questions of why haven’t we rushed to curate concerts to raise money? Released special compilation CDs with the profits going to the DEC? Or designed wristbands to raise awareness? Let’s not forget that all these examples happened when the earthquake shook Japan and the tsunami devastated Haiti last year.
The US has pledged $28m in emergency aid to counter the famine, which adds to the some-$400m already issued this year to the Horn of Africa.
When the West rejected an opportunity to back the country’s Islamic government, it instead supported a futile invasion by Ethiopia – which brought the Al-Shabab to power, with devastating consequences.
Have we as an international community failed the famine-struck people of Somalia? Surely it’s time to put the politics to one side, because if we can’t show remorse, we should at least show some pity?
♫ Q-Tip Feat. Kanye West & Consequence – ‘We Fight/We Love Remix’