Monday, July 24, 2006

Weaving A Narrative: What's Wrong With The Media

In reflecting on the Kahui twins story, one of the most jarring things for me was the speed and fervour with which the media picked up on the 'Tight 12' (TM) moniker for the wider family members at the heart of the police investigation.

In essence, this 'Tight 12' group, who are stonily protecting the killer of two babies in one of the of the most public displays of cowardice the New Zealand populace may ever have seen, have been made to sound like a Marvel Comics superhero gang - and all of this so that the public has a strand to cling to in following the story.

It began with Ani Hawke, a self-appointed spokesman for the Kahui whanau referring to them as such in a radio interview - and although I didn't hear it, Hawkes vomit-inducing self-aggrandisement was insult to injury... she certainly seemed to bask in her fleeting limelight.

As soon as the words had come out of her mouth, the media was all over it, originally prefacing the 'Tight 12' team name with 'so-called,' but as soon as the mandatory grace period necessary to maintain a semblance of taste had passed, it was adopted with gusto.

Today the news has more - still no arrest, still no overt cooperation from the whanau members who continue to help the twins' killer, but the media continues to refer to the wider family by their twee, resolute-sounding nickname.

What is the bigger picture? The painting of news characters as 'heroes' and 'villains,' and the enhancement of various story aspects to create grand narratives is certainly nothing new, but what the effect has been in this case is to amplify any crumbs of respectability and strength that the family's course of total silence might communicate to the NZ public at large, and ameliorate what is really pretty low, for the sake of spinning the yarn and weaving the narrative.

If you want to make the news more palatable and exciting, fine, but don't do it by clinging to the words of a family member still giddy in the throes of her fifteen minutes of infamy - let the moniker actually fit.

The 'Mute Dozen'?


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