What Is The News?

Low and behold, we are back. This is now the second in the series of what I am calling “What Is The News?” These articles feature recent events that were published on local news and media sites. The first looked at the fascinating phenomenon of litter picking. This can be found here.

Staying with that theme, and in fact staying with the same paper, this week’s shocker is entitled “Portmead woman ‘deeply upset’ after wrongly accused for dropping a cigarette end”. Quite the snappy title. This story was published in the March second edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

As you may expect from its headline, it is not quite the earth-shattering news that has customers rushing to their local Londis, and scrambling to get their sweaty hands on the latest print.  At best it is gossip. And that is being very kind indeed. Rather than the type of story that gets the Twittersphere buzzing, it is more of an anecdote I would use to bore a taxi driver with on a drunken ride home from Wind Street. “And you know what… I didn’t even drop the fag… I don’t even smoke… couldn’t believe it I couldn’t. The cheek”.

The fact a “story” such as this made it into the paper, did not come as much of a surprise to me. What I found more surprising was the fact that this article, woman wrongly accused of dropping cigarette, was written by the same reporter as last weeks litter story. Once again the Editor has forced poor Amy Downward to go out on to the streets of Swansea and interview, photograph and write up a story that is quite literally rubbish.

I don’t know if Amy Downward is the Evening Post‘s head reporter on refuse, or the Editor has taken a strong dislike to her recently, but reporting on litter week in week out is going to be enough to crush the soul of any ambitious journalist. I mean the McDonalds litter pick story was ridiculous, but two stories in two weeks about rubbish?! Come on, that is not news. And that is not reporting.

At least with the McDonalds story you can understand why it was run. Initiative from management, bit of good press for the company, free public relations etc. But with this story, where on earth did it come from? Who on earth decided that being wrongly accused of dropping a cigarette was newsworthy? The woman who was accused, Amanda Roberts, didn’t even get charged. Nothing happened! She was apologised to “unreservedly” for the mistake that was made and then everyone went back to their own lives.

Perhaps if a cigarette butt was the cause of a death, perhaps if someone dropped a cigarette butt and then one of the Queen’s corgis wandered over to it, decided it felt a little peckish, had a little nibble, subsequently choked on it, keeled over and collapsed in front of the entire Royal Family and the gathered UK press, perhaps then it would have been newsworthy. Perhaps then Amanda Roberts could feel slightly aggrieved for having been accused of dropping a cigarette and murdering a royal canine. But that did not happen.

And not only did nothing happen, according to the article, nothing happened three months ago! Three months! “Amanda Roberts … was out shopping in Swansea on December 4 last year…”. How could she have waited such a monstrously long time to deliver to the world such a heart wrenching tale? Why on earth Amanda Roberts waited three months to inform the press is utterly beyond me. I assume it was her that went to the press, I may be wrong. But I hardly see the press hunting this story down, weeks of detective work to find leads and angles, and then pounding at the door of Mrs Roberts late one night, in the pouring rain, begging her to tell them the story. I can’t see that being the case.

Unlike the previous article on litter, this one seems to have gathered a fair bit of attention. At the time of writing it has sixty two likes, and thirteen comments. Unfortunately the majority of the comments are being as kind as I am. Swanseajock states “No story really. Accused, denied, denial accepted. Nothing to see here”, in a rather sarcastic tone Lunkhed comments “I expect she will never be able to work again with all the stress this has caused”, and ever the blunt speaker Geek-Police writes “”Deeply upset” – Good God woman – get a grip”.

“Deeply upset” are the words of Amanda Roberts herself, she used this phrase to describe how she felt after what had happened to her. The use of the phrase “deeply upset” is slightly baffling to me though. Either we are dealing with one of the most sensitive people on earth, someone so sensitive that they waited three months before they were able to tell anyone about their traumatic experience, or she is lying. If Amanda Roberts can be “deeply upset” about having someone accuse her of dropping litter, then I would advise we remove her from society and wrap her in cotton wool and bubble wrap because there are far worse things in this world to get upset about.

I get deeply upset about the crisis in Syria, and the fact that people are starving to death across many regions of Africa, and the fact that there are people living in Britain forced to live on the street. I get deeply upset about the anti-gay laws that have just been passed in Uganda, and about the process of female genital mutilation, and animal testing. I get deeply upset about hearing the news of a friend or family member who has died, and about drone strikes killing innocent people, and about the mass slaughter of dolphins that happens annually in Japan. I get deeply upset about these things. Being accused of dropping litter does not even register on the scale.

On a lighter note, after the incident, and following the apology, Amanda Roberts “was provided with a Stubby pocket ashtray” by the litter enforcement officer. What a gent. What is that saying about every cloud?

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