When I was in broadcast media, we had a weekly news cycle and a story that happened today was OK to sit on for a few days to get all the facts before announcing, unless it was absolutely life-changing.

Nowadays we have a 24 hour news cycle and the population accesses it through 20 different digital media at once. It’s driven by content content content and however slow a news day it is, you can count on journalists and anchors over-sensationalising it in order to fill their sensationalism and immediacy quotas for one news cycle.

I was watching Nine News this morning and two things struck me that seem to have manifested very recently…

1/ The lead story in every hourly bulletin is framed as “BREAKING NEWS”, even if it happened overnight and is long since over.

2/ Ordinary car crashes, which never ever qualified as news unless multiple people were killed, that took place overnight seem to dominate the reports and on site journalists always get interview grabs with local residents who didn’t see anything.

This seems quite comical from a news standpoint, however this need for content and over-dramatisation of trivial stories brings about a dangerous animal that lurks in the darkness.

School formals are a very visual spectacle and whatever goes wrong concerning them always attracts immediate attention, with spotlights firmly planted on schools with logos and names plainly visible.

I receive requests for interviews on pretty much every medium every season and the slant is most often “What’s going wrong? What stories can you tell us about the negatives?” It seems that feel good stories are limited to baby pandas and water skiing dogs, and placed at the end of news hours. Only the really bad stuff grabs the headlines and sells space. That’s where they want formals to appear. We can’t give them that material but if you’re not vigilant, they’ll hunt it down and one morning you’ll turn up at work finding a news crew waiting to chase you through your car park.

If you’re in the private school sector, this kind of adverse publicity damages community confidence, which equates to reduced enrolments and reduced donations, which equates to loss of economic viability to provide resources, or to even survive as a school.

If in the government school sector, this reflects very poorly on the Department, which in turn will execute its own agendas for political survival and send the blame down the line to you.

The best possible outcome is that the formal stays positive and well-controlled so that the media can never put any negative spin on it. Again that bus can only be steered from inside.