The other day I was in a meeting with a colleague. It was mid-afternoon and the radio was playing in the background. There was “noise” coming out of the speaker, and so we didn’t have much to “worry about”, we thought. But then all of a sudden, the words “Keith Urban” came out of the mouth of the newsreader, and we stopped our conversation. “Is he dead? A drug overdose? Are he and Nicole getting divorced?”, we both wondered. In the end, the story was of little consequence. But for me, it was a wonderful reminder of the “Principle Of The P’s”.
Many years ago, when I was quite young, and sharing a house with a former lecturer in journalism, he told me the priorities of journalism came down to two just letters: P and B. “When it comes to tabloid journalism”, he told me, “it all comes down to bingo, booze and broads. And when it comes to the rest, it’s all about priorities: princes, prices, people, places and then politics”.
Though the “princes” category is quite wide – Prince William, Jamie Packer, Madonna, and even, sadly, Keith Urban – the rest are fairly straightforward, and make sense when you really think about it in terms of human needs. While the principle (another p word) of good journalism would put politics at the top of the list, for most people it’s at the bottom of the list. Unless of course, “politics” is about princes – Abbott v Turnbull, Gillard v Rudd etc – or “prices” – in which case the media can’t stop talking about it.
It’s an interesting way to think about journalism, even though it’s almost thirty years since my friend and flatmate first imparted these words of wisdom.