I’m addicted to watching the news and current affairs on TV.  BBC news at lunchtime, Channel Four news at 7pm, News Night on BBC 2 each evening and, of course, Question Time and This Week on Thursday evenings. I love them all but there are four things that niggle (I hesitate to share these with you in case bringing them to your attention increases your niggling at the expense of non-judgemental contentment; life may never be the same again).

The first niggle is when journalists start their report/answer to a question with the word well.  I know this is sad admission, but I have counted how many times this happens and worked out a percentage; 90%.  Yes, nine times out of ten an interviewee will launch into their report with, ‘Well,…..’.   You might excuse this by saying they are buying some valuable thinking time, but the offenders are invariably professionals who know exactly what they are going to be asked and have a prepared, perhaps even rehearsed, answer at the ready.

The second, almost equally prevalent, niggle is when, after a report, the news reader is profuse with their thanks; ‘Thank you very much for that, Nick’.  I know it is nice to thank people, but every time? And when the Nicks of this world are professionals doing their job?   If anyone is going to thank them it should be me, the listener.  But I feel strangely excluded, a mere bystander reduced to eavesdropping on cosy exchanges between colleagues who, presumably, are well known to each other.  Damn it, they should be talking to me, not to each other.

The third thing that grates is when people say, ‘The reality is….’.  I always want to ask, ‘Which reality is that?’  Reality, thank goodness, is in the eye of the beholder, open to differing interpretations. There are lots of realities depending on your point of view. To say ‘the reality is’ is a putdown. In reality (!) it means, ‘You are completely out of touch and therefore wrong; I am totally with it and therefore right’. 

The fourth niggle is when people, particularly politicians, say, ‘Up and down the country’.  This is the signal for a totally unsubstantiated sweeping generalisation. ‘Up and down the country people are struggling to keep warm.’  ‘Up and down the country people are complaining about pot holes.’ ‘Up and down the country students are planning riots.’  Harping on about up and down merely reminds people that there is a north south divide. If we are to have sweeping generalisations, I’d be in a favour of a few acrosses.

What niggles you when (if) you watch programmes on TV?  Note: On my Richter scale, niggles come way below full blown irritations. My dictionary says a niggle is ‘a trivial objection or complaint’.  So, no need to come on too heavy.

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