I’m going to put myself out there for a second by saying that, despite working in a newsroom and having to deal with every update and nuance of the Oscar Pistorius trial on a daily basis, I have little to no interest in it.
Look, I have extreme empathy for Reeva Steenkamp’s family, and I understand why it’s newsworthy, but I just think there are many other stories that deserve just as much, if not more attention. And the whole world-salivates-over-sports-hero-shooting-blonde thing just makes me uncomfortable.
What I do find interesting though, are the ridiculous, rabid-dog reactions from my fellow press members.
As acclaimed writer John Edwin Mason noted:
I see the best (South African journalistic) minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical (at the #Pistorius trial).
— John Edwin Mason (@johnedwinmason) March 5, 2014
There is a certain 702 journalist who is building his empire on the back of 156 000 followers, most of whom he got by tweeting about Oscar. There is another journalist who will make a pretty penny writing a book on it all. There is every small and big reporter tweeting away like the world depended on it.
Now, I don’t blame reporters for capitalising on stories to make money. Hell, it’s a tough industry, I know. But it was well-known correspondent Nastasya Tay’s tweet on Wednesday that really broke the Twitter camel’s back, summing up so perfectly the attention-grabbing insanity of this media circus:
#OscarPistorius just winked at me.
— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) March 5, 2014
Really, really Nastasya? You really had to go ahead and put that on Twitter? You couldn’t keep that tiny bit of non-information to yourself?
Now, journalists can be a narcissistic bunch. If you know a journalist, date a journalist, or have ever had contact with a journalist, you’ll know what I mean.
Coupled with this is the expectation for us to be active on social media – to constantly share our updates and opinions. Social media has the ill effect of making us think that our every inane thought matters much more than it does.
But what this means is that it becomes so easy to forget that the story isn’t about you.
If the OsPis trial is about anything, it’s about the inane way we build up heroes, only to relish when they fall. It’s about violence against women; it’s about the public’s thirst for scandal.
What it shouldn’t be is a platform for upping your social capital or amount of Twitter followers.
Haji Mohamed Dawjee noted how the Pistorius case has become a pissing contest for media houses. Where editors vie over who can get the biggest scoop or the latest update. Journalists are very much at the mercy of what their editors want.
In turn, the clicks speak volumes. As much as the public complains about the nauseating volume of Oscar news, most of them are still reading every update. I spend a great deal of time on Google analytics, checking out which of the Mail & Guardian website’s stories are doing the best. Without fail, as soon as an Oscar update is put on the site, it shoots to the top of the bundle. Media is stuck between the ethical choice of setting its own agenda when it comes to news, but also giving the public what it wants to read.
I understand the hypocrisy of me writing a piece about Oscar Pistorius while bemoaning the fact that people are focusing way too much on Oscar Pistorius. And for that reason, I am making a pact. I will not tweet, or write, or share anything about Oscar from this moment on.
Okay, except this one last Tweet. I’ve got to share this from the SABC, who wrote this earth-shattering piece of insight on Wednesday:
Public shows interest in Pistorius trial http://t.co/PrNWq4iiBP
— SABC News Online (@SABCNewsOnline) March 5, 2014