The more I am exposed to the media, the more I am convinced that you need to be either rich, famous or hot to be noticed and be written about. If you tick all three boxes, even better. Because if you do tick all the boxes, you will do stuff that people will only care about because you have ticked those boxes. Leave those boxes unticked and no–one will care.
I will throw in a general disclaimer here first, however. While I can feel empathy towards the people I am about to mention, would they receive the press coverage that they do if they weren’t ticking these boxes?
The most obvious example of this is the Madeline McCann disappearance in Portugal. Madeline herself is a very photogenic girl herself but her parents have been seen in the international media countless times in the six months since the disappearance occurred. There are many photos of parents Gerry & Kate and I’m not sure if seeing their photos in the paper will solve the mystery of “Where’s Maddie?”
The McCann parents have had frequent appearances in the media and their story sells papers. You have a middle to higher class couple who are both doctors. It must help that it could be argued that Kate McCann is hot as well. There are many photos of Kate without her husband and she has been the major focus of the story out of the two parents. This is of course only talking about the print media, this is not to mention the TV, radio and interweb coverage of the case. The McCanns have gone as far to hire a Public Relations company to assist them deal with the media interest.
It was only a few months into the investigation that the parents were officially named by the Portuguese Police as suspects. One would have to ask the question – if the parents were not attractive higher class professionals but were indeed of a lower class, how long would it have taken or this to happen? Would a lower class of Kate McCann already be making number plates at Her Majesty’s Pleasure?
Of course, the McCanns are not the only people to fit into this category of my skepticism. Yesterday’s front page of the Terrorgraph featured the news of a person who was glassed in the face in a nightclub last weekend and is currently in hospital for treatment. This person’s injuries currently include being blind in one eye. There have been a series of these type of incidents in Sydney nightspots and there has been media coverage of these incidents including calls to get rid of drinking glasses and to replace them with plastic glasses.
However, the Terrorgraph features a photo of one such person who wasn’t even in Sydney when this occurred but the regional centre of Wollongong. Despite this, 2 photos of this person appeared in the Terrorgraph on pages 1 and 5.
As you can see in the photos above, by now you won’t be surprised to find that the person concerned would be regarded as highly attractive apart from her substantial injuries. The young woman is pictured in her hospital bed with a pink t-shirt with the slogan “Please Don’t Feed the Models” on it. A photo of the same woman in a shapeless white hospital gown would not have had the same effect, would it? Do they indeed allow people with serious injuries to wear their own clothes in hospital? Or has the hospital run out of white gowns (another story altogether!)
The photos on the interweb are different to the ones in the paper edition of the paper.And indeed, some people have commented on the Terrorgraph website with words to the effect of “it is a shame that this has happened to such a hot woman.” Indeed in the front cover photo, they have been very careful with the lighting so you can not see most of the scarring. And just in case you were in any doubt that this young lady is attractive, there is even a “before” shot as well (see above). This contrasts with the example of a colleague of mine who suffered serious facial and eye injuries when he was attacked outside his own home by an unknown person and faced a similar fate to the lady above. Fortunately in this case, my colleague is back at work after surgery and is able to continue his career. What media coverage did he get? One paragraph in a local paper.
If the media is trying to run a campaign in relation to a certain issue, they will leave no stone unturned and if a story even remotely fits the campaign that they are trying to run, the story will be skewed to fit the campaign. It won’t surprise you to hear that the Terrorgraph is a major user of that tactic. After all, the Terrorgraph is sensationalising the violence in pubs and clubs issue and trying to tell the public that this is a new issue. But just like violence in general, violence in licensed premises is nothing new.
Someone’s hotness should not have a bearing on sympathy. People are quick to mention someone’s attractiveness or beautifulness or famousness when it comes to stories like this. There are many people who have similar stories or worse that are never mentioned but because they do not tick the three boxes I mentioned earlier (hot, rich, famous), no one seems to care. Unfortunately society seems to regard looks first and that is bad for those of us (me included) who do not tick these boxes.
I am sure that you can think of famous people who have done things in their lives that if done by a non-famous person of the same age would do, no one would care or hear about. For instance, I am the same age as former rugby league legend Andrew Johns. However if (like Andrew) I suffered from bi-polar disorder, depression and an alcohol problem, sometime drug user, would anyone care? If I got caught in possession of drugs, would it be national news like it was for Andrew? Of course, it wouldn’t.
However as I said in Erk Pod episode 52, this publicity could be a double edged sword. While it may encourage some people to face up to their problem and seek help (arguably a good thing!), others might think that no one cares about them in the same circumstance. Others might argue that if the problems of someone like Andrew Johns (or Kylie with her breast cancer, to give another example) helps highlight a problem and brings more publicity, that may be indeed a good thing.