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  • Writer's pictureJohn Hemming-Clark

"Horace Horrise and the BBC News" - a micro-story having watched the news on Sunday 24th May.

"Ten o'clock news dad?" Karen Horrise asked as she pressed the button on the remote that sent the dull red LED light in the corner of the television immediately bright green like some sort of mini manic traffic signal that had decided to dispense with amber. She hadn't waited for a response: she never did. Grandad always watched News at Ten and she had no reason to believe that this evening would be any exception. The television flickered into life and the theme music played, "Bonk, bump, bumpity bump bump bump as the newsreader announced to the nation,

"Tonight at ten Boris Johnson backs his most senior adviser over allegations he ignored government restrictions on the coronavirus lockdown. Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister said, was following instinct in travelling over two hundred and fifty miles for childcare when his wife showed coronavirus symptoms." Grandad's eyes remained fixed to the screen as he asked his daughter who Dominic Cummings was.

"He's Boris' most senior adviser apparently," Karen replied.

"So what?" grandad asked. "Are there not more important things in the world that what some mate of Boris' might or might not have done? In any case, I thought I was watching the news not allegations. Why should I be interested in something that may not even have happened?" The newsreader continued.

"Now it comes as one hundred and eighteen more deaths were announced in the past twenty-four hours; that's the lowest figure since the lockdown began though there's usually a lag in recording deaths at the weekend. That brings the total number of people who have died in the UK to thirty-six thousand, seven hundred and ninety-three." Grandad reached for his pencil and scribbled some numbers in the margin of his paper.

"What is it with the BBC these days?" he asked. "They report that thirty-six thousand, seven hundred and ninety-three people have died from coronavirus but by my calculation sixty-seven million, eight hundred and forty-nine thousand, one hundred and two haven't. What's with this glass half empty reporting we hear these days from the BBC? On and on they go, like more gloom and doom..."

"Ssh," interrupted Karen. "I'm listening." So grandad sat mostly in silence - listening - for ten minutes. It was ten minutes of Cummings. Cummings this, Cummings that. He heard sound bites from Boris, opportunist opposition from Starmer and negative reporting from Kuenssberg. When grandad heard a reporter say, "I am told that some government ministers..." he could stand it no more and, er, leapt to his feet.

"'I am told...' Who cares what he's told? Where's the news reporting? Why doesn't the reporter speak to these 'some government ministers' and find out for himself?" After ten minutes grandad sat back down again. "I've just spent ten minutes of a twenty-five minute news programme listening to not news but speculation that someone who advises Boris might have done something. The reporter mentions 'a lot of,' Kuenssberg mentions, 'many people.' Anyone can do that to try to reinforce the point that they're making somehow has validity because MOST people without saying who these anonymous people are and did they speak to them all? No they didn't..."

"Ssh," interrupted Karen. "I'm listening. Once more grandad sat in silence. The newsreader continued.

"Now this week the official number of deaths in care homes in England and Wales from Covid-19 is expected to pass ten thousand..." Grandad leapt to his feet again.

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, 'EXPECTED TO PASS?'" he shouted at the television. "When it passes ten thousand then you can report it. Who cares what some unnamed person expects it to pass? I expect to die but it hasn't happened yet. When it does you can report it. I want news not more speculation. You're a news programme. It's in your title. This is nuts Karen. Turn it off."

"But dad, you always watch the news."

"I used to when there was news. Now it's just speculation, rumour, conjecture and kick the government. When the news returns you can turn it back on."

"You may have a long wait," Karen suggested.

And most people agreed. Allegedly.

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