Switch on the news any day of the week and you’ll see the the same thing:
33% will be terrible events that 99.999% of us are powerless to stop.
25% will be pointless bullshit such as the McCartney divorce or the Diana investigation.
19% will be disproportionally-hyped personal interest stories, such as a kidnap or a murder.
12% will be sport.
7% will be weather.
And the remaining 4% will be a gently amusing tale to round the show off and prevent the viewer from feeling too traumatised.
It’s that final 4% that makes me so angry that I want to get Buerk, Snow, Kaplinsky, Guru-Murthy et al., crush them into a gory news paste, and force feed it to a trembling autocue. It’s not that I hate anything light or entertaining, or require fanatical seriousness from everything I read (I’ll tend to choose The Sun over a proper newspaper nine times out of ten). It’s the fact the stories are all so patronisingly inane that only a complete moron could derive any kind of pleasure from them. Stuff like: a cat that’s learnt how to swim, or a 98-year-old woman with the world’s largest marmalade collection. The stories scream to my utter contempt, and no amount of warmhearted chuckling from the newsreader is going to convince me otherwise.
Of course, there is also the more sinister point that the “and finally” section gives us an insight into how TV news scare-mongerers attempt to manipulate our emotions in pursuit of ratings. “Make people believe the world is chock full of paedos, murderers and terrorists,” goes the strategy, “and just to make it more plausible we’ll chuck in a weak feel-good story at the end. If that’s the only thing worth smiling about, they’ll be shitting it all night.”