I'm not really a 'fan' of the news. Despite working in the industry, having the BBC news app on my phone and checking the website for updates throughout the day, I'm not a fan. I don't agree with a lot of its ethics, angles for stories or its politics, but I like to stay informed on current affairs. I expect a lot of people feel this way. I expect a lot of people don't care, notice or even read the news, and that's a topic for another day, but there are some things that need to be addressed when it comes to the news, and this week it's the question of story angles, and why certain ones are taken.
I often find myself reading stories in the news and ranting to like-minded colleagues about the senselessness of them, the newspaper, and its reporters. It was one story in particular that really bugged me this week – the story about the two twelve-year-old girls who stabbed their friend, also twelve, nineteen times, and blamed it on the fictional horror character, Slender Man.
In case you haven't read this piece of news, have a quick skim over this article, and if you don't know who Slender Man is, then you only need to google his name to find out.
I was shocked when I read the story. I was disgusted at the two girls who had tried to kill their friend. I was glad when I read they were standing trial as adults and their identities had been revealed. But it wasn't any of those things that made me angry and upset. It was the stance on which many newspapers decided to take this horrific incident.
Instead of focusing on the two girls for their behaviour, or their parents for the morals, norms and values they were teaching their daughters, the environments in which they allowed them to live, and the supervision of their upbringing, the majority of news stories centred on the fictional horror character, Slender Man.
Google Slender Man and a whole host of news articles come up, promising to inform you all about this strange character, who was, until last week, not that well known. But why do they need to inform us? I was introduced to Slender Man a few months ago by a friend who showed me the game in which he appears. I googled the term and found loads of information. That information is now lost among the sea of articles repeating the same non-news in a desperate attempt to link exciting horror with the very miserable truth.
Why does the news feel the need to add to what is already available, when they could be focusing on the actual news at hand – the fact that a twelve-year-old girl nearly died after a brutal attempted murder by two of her friends?
Why have they taken that angle, when there are much more pressing issues at hand? The backgrounds of the two girls, the nature to their friendship with the victim prior to the incident, the mental stability of the offenders, to name but a few. Surely there must be more to the story than a fictional character? There must be other, underlying, more significant and prevalent factors which 'caused' these girls to do what they did?
It makes me wonder, who decides this is the way to go? Who thinks, ah yes, lets focus a very serious news story about a child who nearly lost her life, on a fictional character who didn't actually contribute to the criminal act. Yep, that's easy – let's just focus on that. Who thinks that is appropriate? Entertainment plays a big part in the news, I am well aware, but there are more sensitive, intelligent and interesting ways to fit it into articles than shamelessly patronising the majority of the UK by lazily writing boring, mostly copied, 'stories' about a fictional character, categorising the story as 'Slender Man stabbings' and ignoring the real matters at hand.