“It’s an appalling tragedy, this eight-story factory owned by the global sportswear brand Tiker, has collapsed killing dozens of people in this small coastal town. Relatives from this close-knit community comb the rubble looking for signs of life but all hope, it seems, is lost. This couldn’t come at a worse time for Tiker as they try to complete merger talks with their biggest rival. Undoubtedly there will be months of investigation ahead. We will, of course, keep you updated as this story develops. Reporting Live from Istanbul, this is Sinead Murphy for Capital News Television.”
“Ok guys that’s all I’ve got for you, we’ll wrap it up here with some B Roll of the scene, focus on some trainers caught in the rubble, crying kids that sort of thing and then we hit the bar.”
“Sinead, aren’t you being a bit... cold?” Jerry, her new cameraman, is already beginning to annoy her. Hasn’t he been briefed not to annoy the talent?
“Jerry when you’ve been to as many of these disasters as I have you get a bit numb to it all. Human suffering, Blah, Blah, Blah. The punters at home aren’t interested either if they’ve seen one pile of rubble, they’ve seen them all. They want a friendly face to put over the front of the disaster that says, yes there’s a tragedy but it can’t be that bad because good old Sinead (and I’m not that old before you say anything) is out front and centre. She even has a new haircut! I put on that droney bland voice that says, ‘disaster, disaster’ and the audience tunes out. Their disaster is the local shop running out of milk or not buying the lottery ticket for this week’s draw. They want just enough information so when someone says ‘Did you see Istanbul?’ they can say ‘Oh yes Maureen, isn’t it terrible, those poor children’.
To be honest I start feeling a bit like the Angel of Death! And it’s not helped by the office sending me to a new location and then some, blah, blah, disaster hitting within a few hours.”
“What?” Said Jerry with a look of appalled amazement.
“Yes it’s a bit of a joke in the office; ‘there goes Sinead, off to Azerbaijan, the poor sods don’t know what's about to hit them’”.
“And does anything happen to Azerbaijan?” Says Jerry completely in awe.
“Not really”, Says Sinead. “Just an assassination, so that’s only one person and more than that die on the roads in Azerbaijan in a day. Have you seen the figures? ..frightening aren’t they? So it doesn’t count. But of course, they wheel me out “Blah, Blah, Assassination but not in your backyard, so please ignore this intrusion, give some money to charity if you feel bad”.
“An assassination!” Yelps Jerry.
“Yes but only a little one. And when I say little, I mean it was only the Minister for Agriculture and he was a very short man so it didn’t make many waves. Just as well really because that would have drowned the poor sod if he’d survived. He was only a wee little fella.”
“Assassinating a Government Minister is a big deal, Sinead!”
“Well ordinarily it would have been, but this guy tripped and fell into quick-dry cement, face first. On the plus side, they had a wonderful life-size momento to display in the square outside parliament. A bit like Han Solo in Star Wars, when they use it as a mould. Just a shame his facial expression was quite so gruesome. But you can’t complain if you get it for free, now can you?”
“Oh, so he tripped, well that’s not so bad. An accident.”
“Well only if the sniper accidentally fired the bullet. It hit him in the back of the head just as he approached the cement and tripped him right into it. On the plus side, the front of his face was intact for the funeral. Open casket. Gave us some great newsreel, blubbering widow and kiddies. We had to find a special tripod as I recall because they were all so short. Otherwise, you’d have heard the blubbering but only seen the tops of their heads which wouldn’t do. That would have looked more like something out of Monty Python.”
“Sinead how can you be so cold.”
“It’s just a job Jerry, people stuffing teddy bears must get bored and start inserting stupid thing in the stuffing, little notes saying ‘help! get me out of here’. There was something like that when I visited that large red country in the East, what’s it’s name? Don’t tell me it will come to me. Rumours of forced labour and the workers sending messages for help. It’ll come to me. Now they were seriously trying to raise awareness of their plight, but you get the idea. People get bored doing the same job over and over. For me, it’s one disaster after another and I get bored and a bit numb to it all”.
“That’s all very well Sinead but it’s the bit where you arrive in-country just before the tragedy that gets me”.
“Oh, that’s just the algorithms at work. The office has this whizz kid, drives a Ferrari and everything and he has this software which predicts where is due for a hit and then they fire me off to be ready with a team. We don’t know what we’re expecting and we don’t always get a ‘hit’ as it were, but maybe 80-90% of the time something ‘interesting’ happens.”
“This whizz kid who is he? It seems like he’s firing the shots”.
“I don’t know. I only met him once at the London office. This big, red, roar pulled up in the car park just before the editorial meeting. If you’ve been to one of these things they’re normally a yawn fest. Blah Blah, cover the news, Blah, Blah, sex it up (the WMD Report has nothing on us), blah, blah. So in he walks, like he owns the place. Uses this dinky projector, to project straight from his phone onto the wall, which was a neat trick. Demands 4k camera for my news team - to better capture the action, better hotels, faster travel and an increase in local fixers ready at a moment's notice to help us on the ground when we arrive in any country. And he got it all!”
“I thought newsrooms were tight on money?”
“Oh we are, not a pot to piss in, but somehow this guy got everything he asked for, everything! I was surprised he hadn’t asked for helicopters to fly us in and out, but that’s probably for next year!”
“So anyway, where was I, so yes, Jonathan Meeks. Apparently, someone said he makes a lot of money on the stock exchange, daytrader in futures or something. I think a lot of people in the office are a bit jealous of his success.”
“He’s a trader?”
“Well yes, everyone has two jobs these days. I’m writing my novel as I think I told you and I’m often doing Radio or TV work for my ‘Mojito Beach’ fund.”
“Yes, but he’s a trader!”
“And you’re getting to places ahead of disasters and assassinations and stuff”.
“Only 80-90% of the time it’s the algorithm”.
“Oh, it’s the algorithm all right! But not quite how you think. Take the assassination you mentioned. This would have been about the time Azerbaijan was negotiating a new grain deal with the Russian Federation? The minister dies in a very public way, the deal is up in the air. TV crew on hand to film the whole thing, grieving dwarfs (no offence to our short friends) and all. What do you think that would do to the futures market in Azerbaijani grain?”
“Well it won’t be good I guess.”
“Won’t be good! Sinead Murphy, one of the top Western Journalists, cuts straight to the core of the problem. ‘Won’t be good!’. Wow, I see why you get the big bucks! ...And would you say that, ‘Won’t be good’ effect would be magnified by a full media team on the ground, prepped and ready to roll - in both senses - the minute it happens?”
“Oh probably much worse, yeah I see what you mean.” Said Sinead a little crestfallen.
“And would our friend Meeks know what's going to hit Prime Time News before most other people ...and no doubt all other traders? Giving him a little edge with which to make some money? And would it be possible ...at a certain stage, for our friend Meeks to think, ‘why am I waiting for the news? Why don’t I start making the news?’ Much simpler and more cost-efficient.”
“I bet when you first started your ‘hit’ rate was more like 50% and over time it’s improved to 90% - no double because Meeks says he’s improved the algorithm.”
“Management was so pleased with the reduced costs per story they gave him a raise and a dedicated parking space from what I heard!”
“Talk about the Meeks inheriting the earth!”