By Eve McAdam
IT was time to say it, and Bishop Craven said it: that reporting of sensational news constitutes moral temptation for young people. He might have added that for adults this kind of reporting can also become very dull indeed.
Bishop Craven made articulate the prevalent feeling that far too large a proportion of news coverage during the past month has been nothing but a gigantic refuse collection. Everyone has his dustbin but the disposal of its rubbish should be a private matter wherever possible, and should not provide a happy hunting-ground for TV, Radio or Press reporters.
To what exent does TV and Radio deserve the bishop's censure? On the whole I'd say Radio scarcely at all. But certainly both channels of TV have recently allocated far too much time to scandal.
The BBC has. on occasion, shown itself more restrained: for instance. it was noticeable that the BBC did not screen interviews with Dr. Ward. Also, a triviality, to be sure (but then good manners are mainly composed of trivialities). the BBC had the courtesy not to mention in its newscasts onSunday a certain episode of cherry brandy when reporting the Queen and
Prince Philip's visit to Gordonstoun.
What should be the reporter's aim? First, I'd say, getting the news, and then commenting on it in a significant and sensible way, and, when called for, in an entertaining way.
The beat of the week was gained by ITN when its political correspondent, Alastair Burnet interviewed the Prime Minister in Wolverhampton (last Friday) and obtained Mr. Macmillan's statement about his future. This was first-classreporting. and it made a sensation in the best sense.
Where hard news and news comment is concerned there is probably no more efficient service in the world than BBC Radio. Of the various news teams at work I'd place top of the list the BBC's foreign correspondents, and among the best programmes that of Saturday morning's "Rom Our Own Correspondent".
Last Saturday was typical of its quality: Each item was informed, full of authority and fresh. Who could have bettered Bertram Mycock's report about the iron mountains of Mauretania, or Roy Elleston's more lighthearted piece on the Israeli's "intense" attitude about culture? Lionel Fleming had fun with the President's visit to Ireland (as who did not?).
The most uproarious piece on the Presidential tour, incidentally. came from Gerald Priestland in Home's "Midweek" (June 26). This was a most acceptable type of report, sophisticated, laughing at everyone, from President to Press, yet, .throughout managing to give
the public a realistic picture of the goings-on.
Priestland described the trials of the Press and cameramen as they tailed the President across Europe without sleep, and in a press plane that was "a flying slum, littered with broken typewriters",
Where the description and interpretation of events is concerned no one could have done a finer job than the six-man team responsible for the broadcast and telecasts of Pope Paul's Coronation. The men were (BBC-tv) Fr. Agnellus Andrew and Richard Dimbleby, Fr. John Bebb and Ian Trethowan (ITV) and (Radio) Robert Hudson and Fr. Patrick McEnroe.
Of the three services ITV scored most with the public because the ceremonies leading up to the coronation were watched "live", and so Fr. Bcbb's commentary was the most avidly listened to. What a stupendous piece of television this was: unsurpassed by anything ever screened so far.
Fr. Bebb was not intimidated by the occasion. and his commentary was one of the best he has ever given. He not only gave audiences the broad outlines but filled in with a great deal of interesting detail. For instance, no one else. I believe, satisfied curiosity as he did about the monk of St. Basil (an ancient order of Greek monasticism) who sang the Gospel according to the Greek rite.
In assessing reporters and reporting last week. the name of James Cameron of ITV must be included. He was responsible for three well-received TV reports, on June 26. 27 and 30: in itself something of a record. in "This Week" he spoke of President Kennedy's "high-pressure pilgrimage to Ireland"; in "Men of Our Time". he gave his own personal analysis of Mahatma Gandhi, and also spoke about India in ATV's new and interesting "Great Expectations".
If these reports are any indication, it won't be long before Cameron ousts Dimbleby from his throne as King of Commentators.
If Cameron has faults, they are of a kind we could, almost. encourage in these days of exaggeration and pseudo-toughness. I find that he is prone to undesstate and sometimes to be over-indulgent and to prettify. His analysis of Gandhi was over-sweet ("The little lawyer or Gujerat") and did not emphasise enough the calculating politician. But this is not to denigrate an excellent programme with film clips that were completely fascinating— those of the old days of the Rai. Gandhi with the salt marchers, Calcutta students lying down in front of trams, and Gandhi off to gaol where he so enjoyed "oceans of peace". There was the best sequence of all—the skinny leader arriving for the Round Table Conference in a dhoti.
The week's most enjoyable buffoonery came from Stanley Baxter (BBC, Sunday) parading as a number of well-known TV notables. Most enjoyable of all was his bejewelled Dame Edith Sitwell.