This is our truth, tell us yours
I woke to the sound of Radio 5 Live reporting the death of L’Wren Scott, and its aftermath, with all the solemnity of Nicholas Witchell reporting the death of a minor royal.
I have to confess, I thought ‘Lauren Who’?
Ms Scott was, of course, famous because she was Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, and Mick is rock and roll royalty. Other than that, I could barely summon a shrug. I’m no fan of Jagger who is, now that Wyman has left to ponder when his door gets knocked as part of the paedogeddon (although, apparently, rock and roll royalty are different – hence Gary Glitter getting a very different public reaction to Wyman or Pete Townshend) the weakest part of the Rolling Stones.
Nevertheless the whirlpool of news moves on, and a fascinating debate is played out below the line of this Grauniad appreciation of Ms Scott’s work, which appears to have been written by someone who doesn’t know much about Ms Scott’s work.That’s fair enough, neither do I, but BTL lots of commenters are questioning the ethical propriety of allowing comments by people who know nothing about the deceased, some of which are in the worst possible taste.
Now, there are two strands to this. The first is that suicide is a sensitive subject, and reporting of it is likely to upset and distress some, and possibly lead others to contemplate the same act. It’s a fair argument although it assumes that there are higher standards above the line than below – if it’s a quiet Sunday you may well find that some of the Polly Fillers of the commentariat like Burchill or Barbara Ellen may test that thesis to destruction as they seek some glimmer of enlightenment in Ms Scott’s death.
The second point however goes to the heart of the conflict between journalism and the addiction to vox pops and open commenting. If journalism has a mission to inform, what will we learn about Ms Scott, her life or death, from open comments on an article on the Grauniad website? I’ve done no academic research other than reading the comments on that article, but I’d venture we will learn nothing about Ms Scott, but something about the foibles and predilections associated with the posters below the lie. So a woman’s death will get turned into a backdrop to a pantomime of narcissism.
Yes, I know I’m doing it too. I’m using L’Wren Scott’s death as an excuse to write about what I think is wrong with newspapers. I hope my urge to write though is more than mere narcissism – it’s intended to inform a debate about what is media, and to persuade the handful of people who will read it that there is more to life than the lowest common denominator or the endless production of clickbait.