In the aftermath of the tragic death of television presenter Caroline Flack the industry and in particular certain media outlets have not had a choice but to take a long hard look at themselves over the past week.
As tends to happen when something so awful and tragic like this happens there are lots of comments, remarks and apportioning of blame about ‘what could have been done’ and ‘how this could have been prevented’ which is all good, but the most important thing is that we – as an industry – don’t let it happen again and learn from our mistakes.
In the aftermath of all incidents like this there is always a mix of sensible and knee jerk commentary a plenty, but the hardest pill to swallow were the number of showbiz/celebrity reporters from the same tabloids who had hounded and vilified Caroline Flack for years in both their platforms of amplification and via social media channels, coming out and saying how kind people need to be to avert this sort of tragedy when they themselves had perpetrated the abuse.
For some bizarre reason there are certain sections of the media who love to hate certain characters on the celebrity circuit. With regards to Caroline you only have to look back at the bile and hate she received for daring to date a member of One Direction, who happened to be younger than her. If this was the other way around and it was on older man dating a younger woman the older man would be held up as a ‘top guy’ or completely normalised as in the cases of so many celebrities from Sir Patrick Stewart to Leonardo DiCaprio. Even when the latter was recently called out for his penchant for dating women less than half his age at the recent Oscars ceremony, it was done with a wink and a nod and a pat on the bac for being ‘a great guy’.
Without doubt one of the most sensible comments came from a story in the media and marketing press where it was suggested by various industry figures that advertisers could perhaps take a stance against those media owners whom hound, bully and generate public feelings of hatred for certain celebrity figures, or anyone else.
Advertisers are doing everything they can to ensure their content is not next to beheadings, hate videos or other horrid content, so why should they feel any different about their ads going next to stories, features, or journalism in the loosest sense, which propagates hate and is essentially bullying?
There is already a clear need for quality journalism and a battle to save it as number of publications and platforms are producing fake news and sub-standard journalism on a daily basis, but advertisers have the power to insist that they support this eco-system only if the bullying stops and they are also not funding hate journalism. Yes the argument is always ‘well it’s want the public crave’ but if you stop producing it then the lust for it will in our opinion start to fade and why would any publication want that sort of user as part of their database in the first place.
However, It’s not just the traditional media houses who should be learning and changing the way they operate, but also the social media giants, who for too long have not implemented effective enough initiatives to stop the keyboard warriors from bullying. Together with the Government it is now essential that punishments are put in place for those that abuse, bully or break the law with their comments in this space are dealt with in the same manner as those who do or say similar things on the street, or in the workplace. It is not acceptable for bullies to hide behind social media channels.
Either way one thing is for certain we as an industry have to come together, take action and look beyond the blame game to ensure we don’t contribute to making someone feel as if they have nothing, or no one to turn to and consequently feel they are deemed worthless.