Real people and rose gardens

It’s seismic stuff, innit. The last 66 days of Covid lockdown have meant massive change for absolutely everyone and everything. No part of our daily lives has been unaffected. The ripples have reached families and individuals, businesses and services, routines and recreation, even institutions have felt the fallout – just look at Westminster…

One of the places where I’ve noticed the most dramatic change in recent weeks has been in the Fourth Estate. Like the rest of us, the mass media have simply had to do things differently. There are shining examples of revolution on radio, TV and in the press, but also some profoundly disappointing examples of shoddy journalism.  All of this is of particular interest to news junkies and former media people like me, but in case you’ve not noticed, take a closer look or listen – the direction of travel has seen a dramatic detour for channels, columns and stations. And about time too.

For me, the silver lining in the coronavirus cloud has been the MASSIVE increase in real people in the media. Never before have I heard, seen or read about ordinary lives in such numbers. I want to hear from professionals and (some) politicians too, but it’s stories about ordinary people going through extraordinary times which have resonated most. These are people whose voices, if not completely silent, are usually muted.

There’s been old people and young; carers and those they care for; families – nuclear, blended, expectant, single and grand parented; disabled people and folks with additional needs; members of the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities; shop workers, bin men, doctors, nurses and hospital porters; and women – lots and lots of women. Having more women on air and in newspaper print is a victory in itself, but coverage of the whole Covid experience from all kinds of angles and sectors of society has been a huge breath of broadcast fresh air. That many interviews have been conducted via shaky laptops with dodgy connections and cats, dogs and kids roaming around in the background just puts icing on cake. It’s gladdened this former radio producer’s heart and I want more of the same, forever.

Talking of the tranny, hasn’t radio come into its own? Of course, after a long career in MW, FM and DAB, I freely admit to bias, but radio has been utterly, utterly brilliant over the last couple of months. I’ve laughed, cried and stood either rapt or slack-jawed as stories have been relayed across the airwaves from all over the country. And when the wall-to-wall corona-coverage has gotten too much, I’ve simply turned the dial to cool dude supreme, Huey Morgan. Man, he sure knows how to banish the blues.

But just in case you think this is a dewy-eyed, rose-tinted view of the media, I’m not that daft. There’s been plenty of dark cloud along with that silver lining. This week, TV presented us with the most cringeworthy exercise in modern broadcast history (since Emily Maitlis skewered Prince Andrew). If Dominic Cummings’ press conference in Downing Street’s rose garden wasn’t excruciating enough (and boy, it was mind-boggling), then the press pack’s inability to play hardball put journalism to shame. If I could have one wish for the post-Covid media, is that real people get to ask the tough questions.