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Complaint to the BBC

Something that has been bugging me for a long time now is the BBC's habit of creating news articles telling us that prayers are being said for the victims of a tragedy.

The latest example can be found here.

The underlying story is, of course, news, and very tragic, shocking news at that. But the BBC news website had already reported it. There isn't a single detail in this new report that adds anything above the fact that the religious scavengers are now, predictably, swooping in to feast on it in their own macabre fashion. Of course the community is shocked and saddened by what's happened. Of course they feel terribly sorry for the victims. But there's nothing in the world more predictable than that a) local clergy will say people are praying for them and b) the prayers won't make a jot of difference. None of that is news. BBC - please stop doing this. It's pathetic.

It so happens that the family involved in this particular story appear to have been religious. But please don't think that has affected the BBC's decision to cover the story this way: they do it just about every time a shocking event occurs, whether there's any reason to suppose the people involved were religious or not.

I was sufficiently irritated this time to submit a complaint via the BBC website:

Let me start by saying that I am, in general, a huge admirer of the BBC News website and use it as my main source of news information. I wouldn't want to be without it.

But there is one thing you do over and over again which drives me to distraction, and that is to create updates like the one I've linked to below.

There is not a single item of real news in this version of the coverage that was not already contained in your earlier version of it. The fact that religious people are praying in the wake of a tragedy is not news. It is neither unexpected, nor significant, nor will it change a single thing. There is not the slightest reason why you should report it.

The underlying story is deeply shocking, of course. Thank you for reporting that: I hope you will continue to do so as more real information becomes available. But it is not news that people are shocked by shocking events. That's what 'shocking' means! Nor is it news that the local clergy are swooping in to scavenge on the emotional detritus. Has there ever been a shocking incident where that has not happened? Does telling us that it's happening add one jot of meaningful information to what has already been reported? Is it going to alter the course of events in any way at all?

I would urge you to avoid turning these tragic human stories into cheap publicity for the religion industry. Please stop publicising their tawdry efforts to turn a genuine human tragedy into religious propaganda. At times like this, the only things that matter are the victims and any more information that might emerge to explain what exactly happened and why: please spare us the attention-seeking antics of those who wish to turn the spotlight onto themselves instead. It is demeaning to all involved and only trivialises a serious story and the serious human suffering caused by it.

If anyone else feels like reinforcing the message, you can do so via this link.



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