- About TFT
Friday Thing Archive
- Politics
- Media
- Culture and Society
- War On Terror
- People
- Places
- World
- Popped Clogs
- Music
- Books
- Film
- Etc
Help And Info
- Contact Details
- Advertising
- Jobs
- Privacy Policy
- XML Feed

Home > Media

Rolling Coverage Gathers No Moss

Exclusive: live debate: missing schoolgirl Shevaun Pennington owns mobile phone: is your child at risk from paedophile texters?

18 July 2003

This is probably all you need to know about Shevaun Pennington:

British schoolgirl Shevaun, 12, recently disappeared off to Europe with Toby Studabaker, 31, an ex-US marine she met over the Internet. Studabaker has some sort of dodgy history with young, (i.e. underage) girls, although Shevaun claimed to be 19. Fortunately, Shevaun came back unharmed (and apparently unmolested). Studabaker has been arrested.

However, if you work for BBC News 24, you probably have the following questions:

  • Studabaker left the US marines anti-terrorist unit until just a few weeks ago. IS THERE AN AL QUAEDA CONNECTION?

  • Shevaun used the Internet. SHOULD THE INTERNET BE BANNED?

  • Shevaun’s father did not make an appearance until the very end of the TV coverage. HAD HE BEEN ABDUCTED BY ALIENS?

    The level of desperate speculation among the various BBC Woodwards and Bernsteins during the coverage was appalling - mainly the result of having to keep up with constant live coverage. In true journo style, they kept talking up the most minor aspects of the story: did Shevaun’s mum speak to her just BEFORE she appeared at a press conference?

    Who knows? Who cares?

    During these 'fast moving' and 'dramatic unfolding events' (their clichés, not ours) the BBC did what it does best: using its legion of worldwide correspondents to give the illusion of something actually happening. In the space of a couple of hours, there were items from:

  • a BBC reporter at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris

  • two BBC reporters in Michigan

  • a BBC reporter in Frankfurt

  • a BBC reporter in Manchester

  • a BBC reporter in Leigh (an item showing nothing happening at
    Shevaun’s home)

  • a studio in Westminster (interview with Shevaun’s MP)

  • a BBC reporter interviewing Shevaun’s mum

  • a BBC reporter on the phone to Shevaun’s head teacher

    The problem was, once Shevaun was 'found' 'alive and well' (she came back to Manchester by herself), there wasn't much to add. Instead BBC News 24 made do by endlessly wringing out comments from its interviewees, including asking Studabaker’s bewildered relatives in Michigan to comment on the fact that Shevaun had phoned her parents earlier that morning.

    So what does the whole Shevaun Pennington story tell us? Answer: almost nothing.

    The problem is that Shevaun’s story isn't news in the sense of being something that affects the wider population. When people like Shevaun do unusual and unwise things of their own volition, there isn't much you can do to stop them. And when it comes to this kind of extremely rare event, legislation is almost certainly not a solution. One talking head (admittedly on Sky) raised the issue of banning chat groups. How? Why?

    Live TV news coverage: too much, too often.

    Someone sit them down and make them watch The Day Today.

    Martin Bell attacks rolling news:


    An excellent guide to The Day Today:


  • Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

    Subscribe to The Friday Thing for free

    Bad words ahead The Friday Thing is a weekly email comment sheet. Casting a cynical eye over the week's events, it is rarely fair and never balanced.

    A selection of articles from each week's issue appear online, but to enjoy the full Thing, delivered by email every Friday - as well as access to almost five years of back issues - you'll need to subscribe. It's absolutely free.

    "Razor-sharp comment and gossip." - The Sunday Times

    "Hilariously cynical..To describe it as 'irreverent' is to do the newsletter an injustice." - The Observer

    "Sharp, intelligent, opinionated, uncompromising and very, very funny. Just like 'Private Eye' used to be." - Alec McKelland

    "Wicked" - Channel 4

    "Ace" - Time Out

    "'We rise once again in advocacy of The Friday Thing. We realize that some of you may be unwilling to spend [your money] on plain-text comment, but you're only depriving yourself." - The Minor Fall, The Major Lift

    "Subscribing to this at the beginning of the year was undoubtedly one of the better decisions I've made. Superlative, and utterly marvellous. I look forward to Fridays now, because I can't wait for the next issue. Fucking fucking brilliant." - Meish.org

    "Featuring writers from The Observer, Smack The Pony and The 11 O'Clock Show... will continue to attract new subscribers sight unseen" - NeedToKnow

    "The Friday Thing is so good it's stopping me from doing a bunk of a Friday afternoon." - Annie Blinkhorn (The Erotic Review)

    "So now" - The Evening Standard

    "Damn it, you rule. May you never, ever back down." - Paul Mayze

    "Ace" - PopJustice

    "Snarky" - Online Journalism Review

    "Can you please stop making me laugh out loud... I'm supposed to be working, you know!" - Tamsin Tyrwhitt

    "Your coverage of stuff as it spills is right on the money." - Mike Woods

    "Popbitch with A-Levels." - Tim Footman

    "In an inbox full of trite work-related nonsense, TFT shines from under its subject heading like the sun out of Angus Deayton's arse." - Nikki Hunt

    "A first rate email. It's become an integral part of my week, and my life would be empty and meaningless without it (well, *more* empty and meaningless anyway)." - Mark Pugh

    "Genius, absolute bit of class. And you can quote me on that." - Lee Neville

    "If you're hipper than hell, this is what you read." - MarketingSherpa

    "The most entertaining email I've had all week. Great tone." - Matthew Prior

    "A massive and engrossing wit injection." - idiotica.co.uk

    "I wouldn't know satire if it bit me on the arse. But I did like the Naomi Campbell joke." - Matt Kelly (The Mirror)

    "Has had an understandably high profile among people who know about these things." - Guy Clapperton (Guardian Online)

    "Satirical sideswipes at the burning issues of the day." - Radio 5 Live

    "Puerile and worthless... Truly fabulous... Do read the whole thing." - Stephen Pollard

    © The Friday Thing 2001-2008 - All Rights Reserved