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Coming soon, in 2012's media roster

Thursday, January 5, 2012

THE YEAR AHEAD OFFERS a few salient peaks of interest for the media consumer. But I'm not talking of the US presidential election, which already has a lackluster feel.

For all the media bloviators' efforts to make it seem exciting, Iowa's Republicans unenthusiastically favored Mitt Romney by a slim margin this week, and New Hampshire's will do so dutifully by a larger margin next week. It's all too simple a story from now on. Romney will be Barack Obama's challenger and he will lose in November, given a continuance of the economy's gradual, undramatic recovery. If however that recovery's snail-pace does not deliver improvement in a manner the electorate can appreciate, then - unremarkably - it will be Obama who loses. Like I say, simple.


No ... the calendars that guide the nation's newsrooms and broadcast offices - quite separately from the party political timetable - will thankfully be sparking some other reports that could prove illuminating and engaging.


Anniversaries - especially centenaries - are disproportionately appealing to assignment editors, for the obvious reason they give everyone plenty of time to prepare their best work. And I am looking forward to April 15th, if it's not spoiled by the media's over-exertion, which could be awfully likely.


That date will be a hundred years to the day since the reputedly unsinkable RMS Titanic sank (above left) after colliding with its iceberg nemesis.


The planned surge (if you'll pardon the phrase) of commemorative articles and documentaries should be a big draw for the enormous audience - myself included - who still find that story of early 20th Century hubris so compelling.


We can anticipate some degree of revisionist history being told, not least about the conventionally vilified J Bruce Ismay, chairman of the ship's owners, the White Star Line. He has so often been accused of recklessness in encouraging the crew to speed through the north Atlantic ice-field ... of having limited the number of lifeboats available, in order to preserve the ship's sleek aesthetics ... and most heinously, of taking a place himself in one of those few lifeboats, despite the maritime disaster tradition of "women and children first".


Those accusations will be reconsidered (and in full disclosure, I will be among the re-examiners) in new accounts that build on the recent work of biographer Frances Wilson, author of the catchily titled book How to Survive the Titanic - or The Sinking of J. Bruce Ismay. Be prepared for a totally fresh explanation for just why Ismay got into that very-nearly-last lifeboat as it launched ...


THERE'S ANOTHER CENTENARY that I fear will not be accompanied by western media over-exerting themselves. As soon as this coming weekend, on January 8th, I foresee that just a few dedicated media practitioners outside of Africa will mark the passing of a hundred years since the hot and dusty day in Bloemfontein, South Africa when Nelson Mandela's movement, the African National Congress was first formed.


It's a sharp reflection on 20th Century colonialism - and especially on white supremacist obduracy - that the ANC was the first African liberation movement ever to come into existence ... and yet pretty much the last to achieve its aim - finally toppling the apartheid regime only in the century's final decade.


The celebrations - including a mass rally in a football stadium, and a service at the small Methodist church building where the first gathering took place - are being held against an especially piquant backdrop.


Mandela himself (above right) now aged 93 and long retired from leadership (no "President-for-Life" title for him, however favored it may have been elsewhere in Africa, the Middle East and Asia) has withdrawn to the eastern Cape, the home area of his childhood, only to be greeted by the machinery of modern media employed in a grim kind of death watch.


The Associated Press and Reuters news organizations have, after public and official protests, had to dismantle the 24/7 camera surveillance they set up to watch all comings and goings at the father of the nation's compound, all part of what in the trade are now being called the "M-Plans".


Mandela called his own life-story a "Long Walk to Freedom". That walk may well finally end in 2012, and then will follow an extraordinary global media set-piece, we can be sure -- one of biggest funerals the world has ever seen.


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