- Can travel ever make you safe? by Simon Jenkins
- Too much talk for one planet: why I’m reducing my word emissions’ by Charlie Brooker
The first in a series called ‘first thoughts’ on the topic of the train and coach crashes in Spain and Italy that have claimed over a hundred lives.
If journalism has any function, it should offer fresh insights or offer new perspectives on tragic events like these.
Jenkins’ piece is full of banal platitudes that he barely states any opinion at all unless you count absurd statements like: “The more secure we make travel, the more we risk making it more dangerous”.
It is plain as day that the only reason this piece was written was to fill a gap in the paper. In the comments online, the reporter is justifiably pilloried for the flawed, ill-thought out content. One reader put it succinctly by posting: “If first thoughts’ is going to mean ‘less thought’ then hopefully I speak for than myself when I say I’m prepared to wait a little longer, thanks”.
What this highlights, I think, is the pressure for fast reactions to breaking stories even when, as is the case with these two crashes, the full circumstances are far from clear. The need for rapid-fire opinion pieces is one of the drawbacks of the digital age.
The Brooker column makes the point that the problems of writing copy to order don’t just apply to news stories.
Weekly columns like his mean that he is required to be angry, funny, topical or, ideally, all three. Brooker is a sharp and witty observer of the absurdities of modern life. I still recall his hilarious piece about attending a 3D screening of The Avengers movie at his local Multiplex cinema.
But today’s article shows that being so consistently indignant and spiteful takes its toll. It’s not really an admission of burn out because I’m sure he has other ways of making a living. Hopefully this will include a new season of the excellent Black Mirror TV shows.
Ultimately, waiting for the muse to materialise is as about as productive as waiting for Godot and what Brooker’s and Jenkins’ pieces show is that writing on the fly is a tough gig.
Sometimes silent reflection is the best response.
The problem is, it doesn’t pay the bills or fill newspapers.