Why does the media routinely “commemorate” the anniversary of major news events like the Lindt Cafe siege with blanket over-the-top coverage? Is it out of respect for the victims? Or is it about money and ratings?

The news presenters put on their grave faces for these anniversaries and roll out the boilerplate emoting. “It changed our lives forever….a day imprinted in our memories”, Producers with lots of time on their hands roll out the slow-mo and Barber’s adagio.

It helps if the event being “commemorated” was in an otherwise quiet news time, because then the networks can give it the full operatic treatment reasonably confident they won’t be gazumped by something else happening.

It’s hard to know what is more offensive about these “specials” – the orchestrated and rehearsed  grieving, the exploitation of the victims’ families all over again (“how does it feel a year on?”) or the manipulative montages. None of it is real or remotely sincere. The thinking is “it rated so well last time, let’s do it all over again”.

The media loves these setpieces for a simple reason. They can promote them and produce them and script to within an inch of their lives. News by its nature is unpredictable. But you know these one-year anniversaries have been in the diary all year.

None of this criticism should be taken as making light of the real human tragedy or the suffering of the victims.  And it does not mean that the anniversary of a major event like the Lindt Cafe siege should be ignored by the media.

What’s wrong is the monstrous and calculated scale of the journalistic emoting. Instead of understatedly letting facts speak for themselves or, God forbid, taking the story forward, the media casually appropriate painful personal & public events for a confected spectacle of kitsch that serves their own commercial advantage.

In an age of social media, what’s particularly offensive is the implied directive from the media that “OK, now’s the time we remember ‘X'” as if we can safely forget about it the other 364 days of the year. It’s “news” when we say it’s news.

And what’s uncanny is they maintain this charade, this cynical puppet show despite the fact that everybody can see the strings. The ruse was up years ago, but like the Wizard of Oz, they’re still telling the public to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

The media set-piece memorial is past its use-by date. They would be better off chasing real news than trying to reconstruct yesterday’s news for cheap ratings points.

But maybe I’m being overly cynical. What do you think?







Paul McEwan · December 15, 2015 at 10:48 pm

Spot on. It’s manipulative, just quick & easy to produce, and cheapens any genuine emotional response to any event. And don’t get me started on the incredibly nasty “how did it make you feel when [gruesome description] happened to you?” i.e. let’s work really hard to make him/her cry on camera cos’ that’s good jernamalism and it’s good for ratings!

pietro · December 16, 2015 at 8:32 am

So cynical.

So accurate.

Fran Weston · December 16, 2015 at 8:57 am

I agree entirely. The second it came up, I flicked the switch and poured myself a campari and soda and wondered why I was so grumpy. Thanks for your insights.

Barfiller · December 16, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Most news is just formula stuff. If it bleeds, it leads …

Leonard McDonnell · December 16, 2015 at 1:24 pm

I totally agree. And don’t get me started on how selective the news media is about the events it “glorifies” and the events it ignores.

Dan · December 17, 2015 at 8:17 am

I see no issue with covering any commemorations marking the anniversary of an event like the Lindt Cafe siege, but don’t use it as a vehicle to chase rating. Straight to the point reporting without the pathos and drama.

By the way Mr D; you have followed a trend that’s pervading media these days – “one year anniversary”. It’s the first (2nd, 3rd, etc) anniversary. Sorry to be so pedantic!

Mercurial · December 18, 2015 at 3:48 am

Hallelujah! Thanks for saying so eloquently what I have been thinking for years. I grew tired of the anniversaries of 9/11 the Bali bombings. For example, did you know we’ve just had the 13th anniversary of Kuta in the last couple of months? The important ones seem to be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50 (and on). That’s an awful lot of anniversaries. A centenary is, I think, a little different, because by then the event has some historical interest. But even the Anzac centenary was milked for all its emotional worth by the cloying Australian media.

And as you say, why is the anniversary any more important than other times to remember these tragedies? The only answer I have been able to think of is that it suits the media.

But then I’ve always been cynical of the media.

David Irving (no relation) · December 30, 2015 at 7:16 am

I don’t think you’re being overly cynical. Additionally, of course, this particular set-piece had a particular subtext: “Booga, booga, booga! Scary Muslims!!1!”

JohnL · January 18, 2016 at 4:46 pm

I can’t stand these “Commemorative” bloody programs.
Except one, that still stands out after many years.
TVNZ did a documentary on the Aramoana shootings, some time after it happened. No music, no emotive overlay, no tearful interviews x years on……they just let the whole horrendous scene play out, as it happened, with footage shot at the time and any police or other recordings they could access. An unseen announcer filled in the links as required and survivors quietly explained what they were doing and where.
Totally horrific, moving and inspiring all at the same time.
I often wish I could find a copy, but,……it seems to have vanished from the face of the earth.

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