The “Silly Season” Is No More: It’s Been Replaced By Something Much Worse:

Have you ever heard about “Nessie”? If yes, then you’ll know that it’s a monster that reputedly lives beneath the waters of Loch Ness in Scotland. On 11th May, The Scottish Mirror journalist, Natalie Evans, reported that a video taken by a tourist from Wales, Robb Jones, suggested that “the world famous mythical creature may have returned – 9 months after a previous reported sighting”. Evans also quoted the reason given by Gary Campbell – the “keeper of the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register” – as to why “Nessie” is invariably seen more in the summer than at other times of the year: “There are more people around, there are much longer daylight hours and the weather is usually better”.

However,the many sceptics who doubt whether “Nessie” exists at all offer a somewhat different explanation – namely, that the print media tends to be a little short of news stories during the peak vacation period, so the apparent re-emergence of a popular monster helps fill the gaps. The Conservative MP for South Dorset, Richard Drax, has pointed out on his website that throughout his 17 years working as a journalist, the month of August was always referred to as “the silly season” – and indeed, that it still is, due to Parliament being in recess, schools closed until September and many people on holiday. Hence, “items that would normally attract little attention are elevated to the front pages”.

Suzi Christie, the owner of Blueberry Public Relations Ltd in East Sussex, has noted that some editors can be so desperate for input that they will give prominence to “ludicrous” reports such as one that featured in The Independent about “squirrels addicted to crack” and a claim by a group of residents in St Osyth, Essex, that a “large lion” had been seen prowling the surrounding countryside. The Daily Mirror concluded that the culprit was probably not “the king of the jungle” but more likely “ a 12-year-old ginger tomcat named Tom who lived in a nearby old people’s home”.

The controversial Daily Mail commentator, Richard Littlejohn, acknowledged on 15th August that “hacks” like him often have to “scratch around to find something to write about when “real” news is in short supply. He then highlighted several stories that he considered farcical – for example, a sheep race in Scotland which had been “abandoned after a campaign by animal rights fundamentalists” and the decision by the organisers of the Frome Carnival, Somerset, to replace their traditional carnival queen with five “carnival ambassadors” – on the basis (so they told the Sunday Times) that “ a beauty pageant is out of step with 21st century values”.

There have been a number of other stories that have appeared in rival newspapers during August that their editors presumably judged as newsworthy but of which Littlejohn may have disapproved: In the Sunday Times on 6th August, Roland White revealed in his “Atticus” column that the Labour MP, Paul Flynn, is calling for cannabis users “to descend on Parliament for a mass smoke-in as a token act of civil disobedience”. The same publication that day devoted half a page to an article by White’s colleague, Robin Henry, about dog walkers on the beach at Llandudno, north Wales, who claim they are at risk of a £75 fine if they are caught with their pets off their lead and that they are “being watched through binoculars, covertly filmed and followed by intimidating black-uniformed security officers working for Conwy Council” when they take their dogs across the sand dunes.

The previous week, the Sunday Times had described as “not so savvy” the pink linen dress which Prime Minister Theresa May was photographed wearing while she was on holiday in Lake Garda, Italy and which can be bought online from Next for £26. Both the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times gave space to rumours that the divorce between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie may be off or at least postponed “after he gave up boozing to win her back”. Meanwhile, the Observer correspondent Nish Kumar focused on the sale of the Brazilian player Neymar by Barcelona to Paris St Germain “ for a head-exploding sum of £198 million, a figure almost eight times larger than the GDP of the island nation of Tuvalu”.

n the opinion of the Stir PR Ltd website, the description “silly season” no longer applies either to August or any other time of the year. It emphasizes that “with the rise of social and digital media, consumers now get their news fed to them on their smart phones, linking them in lightning-quick fashion to their favourite website, blog or influencer. It doesn’t matter if the reader is at work or lounging by the swimming pool, these channels don’t slow down over summer and they don’t change how they report”.

In what has become a sombre August 2017, media editors have not needed to resort to fabricated stories: On 1st August , British Gas raised its prices for its 3.1 million customers by 12.5%, effective as from 15th September. The Government then did likewise for rail passengers: a 3.6% increase in January 2018. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un threatened each other with nuclear war. Europe was hit by a “Lucifer heatwave”, with Sicily suffering the highest temperature, 46%. Many survivors from the June 14th Grenfell Tower fire are still awaiting alternative accommodation and financial help. White supremacists clashed with protesters in Charlotteville, Virginia.

And then: The attacks in Barcelona & Cambrils, in Spain and the Finnish coastal city of Turku. The “silly season” is no more. It’s been replaced by something much worse.

Filed under: Media, Society | Posted on August 21st, 2017 by Colin D Gordon

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