I am finding the coverage of the recent gap-year crash in Ecuador rather uncomfortable. No less a broadcaster than the BBC could be found broadcasting the collapse of two grieving parents.
What is so cruel about this kind of coverage is the way in which the bereaved feel somehow obliged to co-operate with the media. The poor couple, Mr and Mrs Swann, looked like rabbits caught in headlights. But to refuse to go on TV to “pay tribute” to their daughter Indira Swann would now be seen as somehow dishonouring her memory.
All the crucial details of the incident are known. There is no wider political or social side to a tragic accident. That the roads in Ecuador are clearly very bad is undoubtedly a development issue. But the only thing that makes this a “second-day” story is the participation of the parents.
What are the chances that a news columnist will become indignant over the symbolism of this? “We are only interested in the story because they are good looking”, “gap years are the finishing school for the middle-class” etcetera. Or a mile-by-mile account of the survivors’ repatriation. Anything to print the photos of those five pretty women again.