There is very little optimism in the news which is published or broadcasted, this has never been more true than last month when the story of Oscar Pistorius hit the headlines.



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Photo Credit: mRio/Flickr

Photo Credit: mRio/Flickr

A story in recent history that has very much dominated the headlines was the case of Oscar Pistorius,accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. In some tabloid newspapers there were even five stories published surrounding this disastrous event on one given day. This has led me to debate that since the newspapers that have published these stories continue to see rising sales, what does the public desire to read and why? Arguably then is it right to suggest that the public crave stories of self-destruction or destruction of others, and therefore dismiss newspapers that contain positive events in which members of the public appear to be successful? It seems that even when they manage to gain some press recognition their article barely reaches more than half a page, furthermore can this not conclude that journalists excel with negativity?

It is a crying shame that people have not realised that while the murder investigation surrounding Pistorius has been occurring, scientists in America are developing a way in which a 6th sense can be created through a brain implant which detects infrared light. Findings showed method lab rats could detect the infrared light via electrodes in the part of the brain connecting  to their sense of touch. Due to the results scientists now believe that a part of the brain which is designed to process one sense can interpret other types of sensory information, essentially restoring lost sight through a different section of the brain. Similar devices have already been used with paralysed patients, they are now able to use their thoughts to control the movement of a cursor around a screen. Reporter Nick Collins from the Telegraph said that:

“someone who is blind because of damage to their visual cortex could regain their sight using an implant in another part of the brain.”

This is an outstanding breakthrough for science, which in theory, should have been the focal point in the media at the time, instead the events surrounding Pistorius dominated the papers and news channels. As important as it is for the general public to be aware of the crimes that occur, it is also necessary for breakthroughs in science to gain the same amount of press coverage to ensure the public are aware.

The vital information that Dr Miguel Nicolelis of the University of North Carolina have discovered, was heavily overshadowed by a story surrounding a world renowned athlete. It is more than fair to suggest that Pistorius, and a negative story, has stolen the limelight of a medical miracle. Arguably any tragedy would gain huge press interest, but surely this has been focused upon more than many of the other cases committed by individuals who are not in the public eye?

Following this it is typically individuals with celebrity status who gain more media coverage purely because of their status. The Jimmy Savile case was a prime example of how a story can dominate the press, it was documented non stop in newspapers, and took priority over footage presented on teatime news updates. As a viewer it became tiresome to watch brief news updates, that purely discussed outrage at Savile and associated celebrities because they “should know better,” alongside a series of other reports focusing on doom and gloom.

Photo Credit: defenceimages/Flickr

Photo Credit: defenceimages/Flickr

There are more examples, newspapers such as the Guardian have, instead of commenting on the recent discovery of a possible HIV ‘cure’, reported on both Justin Bieber’s failure to appear at his concert at the O2, and documented the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy updates claiming the “baby has been kicking.” A full page report including Justin Bieber’s tweets appear to have been considered higher priority than a possible HIV cure. Articles on main pages of broadsheets on March 8th include one entitled ‘It’s time to bust the DD boob myth’ which poses the question what kind of events fall into the category of news? The current coverage would indicate that breakthroughs in science are last on the reading list. The important scientific findings should take priority over murder trials and pop-stars.

Back to the scientific breakthrough for the visually impaired, Dr. Nicolelis said:

“in the future, you could use prosthetic devices to restore sensory modalities that have been lost, such as vision, using a different part of the brain.”

In addition to this discovery, scientists are continuing an on-going international study aiming to build a whole-body suit which will allow paralysed individuals to walk again through use of their brain to control the device’s movement. The press should contain and cover all aspects of life from the dark, morbid stories to positive and successful achievements. This unfortunately is not the case. While the public are opening their newspapers to read of the tragedies occurring up and down the country, it makes me wonder, how many actually read the whole paper and if they do, which articles do they remember?

When successfully implemented, which will get more publicity; the individuals who get a second chance at using their limbs or the latest football scores? Collins reports that: “Dr Nicolelis and his collaborators on the project hope to unveil the ‘exoskeleton’ at the opening ceremony of the football World Cup in Brazil in 2014.” It is a shame that a breakthrough this significant must be aligned with a sporting event to increase the chance that it will gain some coverage. Hopefully this will one day change.