Media circus set to ignore real world
The general election will be the major domestic news story of 2007.
In the absence of fundamental policy differences between the political parties, the coverage will closely resemble reality television, although in contrast to Big Brother and You're A Star, fat, old, ugly, rich people with unpleasant personalities will not be discriminated against. Taking their lead from Bertie's tearful RTÉ interview in response to the ‘Bertiegate' allegations, politicians will vie for chances to reveal their inner sensitive selves to the public. Discussion of issues will mostly revolve around outlandish claims that particular parties should be given credit for other people's work. The more serious commentators will discuss the personalities of the candidates in detail, dissecting their managerial ability, presentation skills and charisma – although without reference to any meaningful evidence – while the tabloids will concentrate on who's looking fat or wears silly trousers. Tribes of pundits, spread across acres of newsprint, will devote themselves to analysing the nuances of the candidates' respective performances in the personality contest. Despite the fact that it will be the most intensely covered political event ever in Ireland, voter turnout will decline and almost nobody will remember what happened by the end of the year.
On the foreign front, Iran will be the story of the year. The relatively discreet introduction of UN sanctions against Iran's nuclear programme on 23 December, followed by Iran's predictable promise to accelerate work, signals that the US is still dedicated to escalating tensions in the Middle East despite the Iraqi disaster. As the face-off develops throughout 2007, the newspapers will follow in great detail the resolutions, votes and debates within the UN and its various committees but will seldom pause to ask themselves if they're just following a well-known script. If and when military action takes place, many of them will have convinced themselves that there is no other option left open and will reluctantly support a war against the possibility of future weapons of mass destruction.Industry trends will continue very much as they are. As paid circulation continues to decline, newspapers will further evolve towards being advertising-driven distributors of material carefully tailored towards their bottom lines. Editorial staff numbers will continue to decline and production will increasingly be based on lowly-paid interns cobbling together stories from the internet. Fianna Fáil's privacy bill will disappear in the pre-election fog while the defamation bill with its toothless press complaints committee will be delivered to a grateful media.
Meanwhile, journalists will increase their lead over politicians in the annual survey of “least trusted” professionals.Thankfully, however, the real world will continue to bear only a vague resemblance to the world portrayed in the papers. Despite the sensationalism and scare-mongering of the media, the country will not become overrun by criminals, fundamentalists, or rabid asylum-seekers and large numbers of people will continue to be constructively involved in public life through community and campaign groups, trade unions and other voluntary associations. And while this will all be largely ignored by the celebrity-obsessed press, at least it makes the real world a much nicer place.π