Sometime between 11 am and 12 pm yesterday I heard through the grapevine that a man with a gun had been spotted at Queen Street Mall in Brisbane CBD. The police was quick to lockdown the area and issuing a PSPA. I was too far away to rush there to cover it for the first bidder wanting a journalist on the ground. But I already had a commitment I could not step away from — the memorial service for Whiskey Au Go Go 40th anniversary in The Valley.
Still I had a bit of a conundrum to tackle. At the time I was in the South Brisbane area, and The Valley is located in the north, past Brisbane CBD, across the Brisbane River. While on the bus I was frantically trying to find out how to get across the river, then past The CBD, to get to The Valley. Most routs passing through that area had been shutdown – terminating just before The CBD at both ends. I hate being late for things, I absolutely abhor it, something that you grow up with in Norway, being taught to feel shame if late.
The bus dropped us off on the corner by the Cultural Centre, as the bus station had been closed off. Luckily it was near the train station. I rushed towards the station, hoping to catch the next train heading towards The Valley. I do not take the train that often. Only if I have to or going to the airport to get away from this massive island for a bit. I assumed I were on the right platform, not sure if the train that had stopped was heading towards The Valley, I asked one of the train personnel. I was told, in a very apathetic voice, that the train was heading towards where I was going. Still not sure because of the what-ever response I got.
Lucky for me that I trusted the train personnel, I made my way towards the memorial service for Whiskey Au Go Go 40th anniversary after stepping off the train. But that is not what I want to talk about now — I will file that write-up on Monday. What I want to highlight is what I read regarding what was going on in The CBD – the lone gunman.
In a country with strict gun laws, you do not expect this to happen too often, a person being in a public area, waving a gun around, having the area locked off and flooded with police. Such an event will make most of the media drool from their hungry mouths to not just be the first to cover it, but be the one with the highest ratings. Turning reporters into hungry vultures, circling around, hoping someone will die so they can swoop in and feast on the carcass on the ground while it is still warm.
It had to happen, someone had to up the ante to make it sound like something sinister were about to happen. Suddenly a lone gunman in The CBD was at that point referred to as a siege. A person that allegedly had no intentions to hurt anyone else other than himself, as he was claimed to be pointing the gun at himself while yelling at the police to shoot him. An event I find it difficult to justify calling a siege. But alas, that is what the media is like here — all about sensationalism.
It is more tempting to refer to the police action as a siege, as they came in as a group, armed and ready to take action against someone, and taking control of an area. But that would of course be going too far for the media here, especially in Queensland, as the police and media do not get that well along here after a certain coverage of a certain police officer — Chris Hurley.
Yet again the reputation, as I see it, of journalists have been dragged down in the mud. An event being pre-judged by greedy journalists wanting to create a name for themselves, by sacrificing a person that was crying out for help. A cry that seems to have been tossed aside, down on the ground and swept under the carpet, for the sake of stirring the public— by inciting fear for the sake of ratings —to see that person as someone that wanted to cause harm to the public, when all he wanted, and needed, was help. No wonder journalists are often seen as untrustworthy vultures.
Hopefully we can learn from this, at least those of us that are willing to improve, to understand how it should not have been handled. An event like this needs to be reported, no doubt about that at all, but only report what is known, what information is available. Avoid the assumptions, the fear-mongering — report only the facts. Then, when new information is available, add to the follow-up reporting — still with emphasis on accuracy.