Ted Obvious reports from Pretoria: Well, we all had it coming, didn’t we? The moment I heard that Oscar Pistorius, the famous South African paralympian, was in trouble, suspected of shooting his girlfriend model Reeva Steenkamp at his house, I knew we were in for wall-to-wall coverage of that story which would last for days and maybe weeks.
It’s one of those things that get hacks trembling with excitement at the thought that they would have a top story running endlessly, without bothering to look for anything else. The fact that the audiences and the readers out there get sick and tired very quickly of all this stuff is overlooked at editorial meetings at TV news channels and newspapers. It’s all systems go and to hell with what people want. Fills airtime and column inches with no problems. Not to mention that no one can accuse the media of not doing its job properly as it has all the components of a big story: celebs, suspected murder, court hearings and hundreds of people willing to talk about it. Who cares about wars and terrorism and the economy going down the toilet? Oscar Pistorius is in the spotlight at the moment so why not milk the occasion for all its worth.
The irony of the situation is that with all that excessive coverage of this celebrity story nobody would really be any wiser. Because until the court decides whether Pistorius is guilty or not of killing his girlfriend there’s nothing that hacks can actually come up with that would be of any substance. The guessing game can run and run but it will not reveal anything new or interesting. And as the man at the centre of attention is an athlete, be it an outstanding paralympian, there’s pretty much nothing in his life that would be different from any other athlete, able-bodied or not. Sport generally is all about people exercising a lot on a daily basis, but that pretty much sums up their lives. Sure, some of them get lucky and win competitions and earn some good money and date models or actresses, but it’s not like they stray out of line and do something extraordinary for any sportsman or woman. In fact, once they hit the big time their lives are mostly about sponsorships and advertising deals and signing contracts, with their publicists doing all the talking on their behalf. And later in their lives booze and dope tend to creep in, as it happens with most celebrities generally, and that pretty much sums it all up.
So with Oscar Pistorius we can’t really expect anything exciting to surface as the media puts his life under the microscope, in the hope of finding something to spice up the coverage of his murder trial. It is going to resemble a life of many other athletes who have decided to devote their whole lives to running or jumping or kicking the ball, because there is nothing much else that they can do. And the only reason why they become celebrities is because there are people behind them who make money on their fame and because the media finds it easy to write about them, while sponsors think that their names move products. There is nothing else to them really.
The over the top coverage of the Pistorius saga also reflects the laziness of the mainstream media to go out and search for real stories. That demands effort and determination, a level of professionalism and even guts sometimes. But banging on about an athlete, who may have shot his girlfriend on purpose or not, has nothing to do with proper news reporting. Waste of time really.