Silly season starts now

Where, oh where have the "real" news stories gone?

Summer is referred to in the newspaper business as “the silly season”; with political news generally scarce, journalists are forced to fall back on frivolous stories in order to fill pages. Judging by news stories I’ve been seeing recently, the silly season appears to have arrived a month early, which doesn’t bode well for us by the time we get to August. Here are a few examples of what’s been making headlines:

The recent fracas in the House of Commons has elbowed (sorry) its way into almost every section of every newspaper in Canada. All we need is a piece detailing what everyone involved was wearing and I think that would be all the bases covered. (“Mr. Trudeau’s choice of a dark tie with a dark suit surprised many, with one fashion expert noting it was a shame the PM didn’t choose a red tie. ‘It really would have made his outfit “pop”. As it is, I think this was a missed opportunity.’”)

And I haven’t even touched on the furore sparked by the PM’s wife and her heartfelt request for more help. Please, can we all just move along and get to some real news, such as the vanishing UFOs that have been reported in Ontario?

The Eurovision Song Contest has reliably generated dozens of stories in Britain. Almost unheard of in North America, the annual extravaganza was started in 1956 as a way of bringing together countries in the European Broadcasting Union. While the contest introduced ABBA (the 1974 winner) and Céline Dion (the 1988 winner, for Switzerland) to the world, and was also responsible for Riverdance, it is generally better known for instantly forgettable songs, performers who rely on bizarre costumes, and accusations of bloc voting that favour Eastern European countries which share similar languages, cultures, and tastes in music.

This has led Great Britain—with its somewhat ambivalent attitude towards Europe—to more or less treat the contest as a long-running joke (although it strikes me that the country which jointly won Eurovision in 1969 with a song titled “Boom Bang-a-Bang” hardly has the high ground here). How long-running a joke is it? An episode of the BBC radio comedy series Round the Horne from 1966—which I am listening to as I write—has narrator Kenneth Horne start one skit by saying, “When I think of what befell me that fateful night in September, and of the horror of what I saw and heard, I can scarce repress a shudder. However, I shan’t dwell on the Eurovision Song Contest.” For the record, this year’s winner was Ukraine; Britain’s entry placed 24th out of 26.

And speaking of the BBC, it caused outraged articles aplenty last week when it announced it was axing its online recipe service, along with the some 11,000 recipes stored there. Tens of thousands of irate Brits, apparently labouring under the belief that there are absolutely no other online sources where one can learn how to make spaghetti bolognese, fish curry, and chicken Kiev (three of the BBC’s most popular recipes), signed a petition demanding the BBC reverse their decision, which the Beeb promptly did, presumably with wilted spinach and poached egg on its face (see recipe at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/wilted_spinach_and_33071).

As with the PM’s elbow, I’m hoping that journalists can get past these tempests in a teapot and turn to more serious matters before too much longer. Stories about that naked sleepwalker in Manchester won’t write themselves, after all.

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