How often do you watch the TV news and find yourself shrieking "THAT'S NOT A FLIPPIN' STORY!"
Surely I can't be the only one, although I admit, it's been happening at my place a lot lately. It's a perfectly natural reaction to the biggest non-story of the year; the one that's been blurted at us non-stop for weeks now. To wit the obsessive media speculation about when the next federal election will be held.
It is so inane and yet such a relentless line of inquiry that I almost feel sorry for Malcolm Turnbull and his happy band of contented, confident and unified Coalition partners every time they're asked the question. Which is 8-12 times a day. Every day. Whether we go to the polls early or whether we have an election later in the year is 100 per cent irrelevant to most Australians. I honestly don't know anyone who cares one way or the other. Hands up if you care. Nope? No-one? See.
Yet day in and day out, some pretentious git from the Canberra press gallery will ensure that every single door-stop by the Prime Minister or his ministers comes back to "When are you going to call an election? Let's talk about the election. When is it going to be? Election-election-election-when-when-when-when?"
Memo to the press gallery: It's policy that matters to punters (the "what"), not the timing of when they get to vote (the "when").
Yet TV reporters and hosts in the studio bang on about triggers for a double dissolution, the merits of running extended campaigns and whether the Budget is going to be brought forward by a week as if they were breaking the Watergate scandal.
I suspect they just like saying the words because it makes them sound like they're in the know about something mysterious. "Trigger-trigger-trigger. Double dissolution, double dissolution, double dissolution!"
It makes me want to have a double dissolution of Asprin and a lie down. Thankfully one day in the not too distant future, the PM will call an election and this irritating non-story will go away. Other non-stories, however, are here to stay. There are many furphies that get passed off as "news". My pet hates, in no particular order, include:
Weather stories. These are particularly aggravating when broadcast at the end of an excessively hot day. Few people I know need to be told by a TV reporter that they are experiencing heatwave conditions. Viewers have generally worked that out themselves by the time the 6pm bulletin rolls around.
I'm not talking about weather events that are genuine news - like storms that cause damage, death or injury - I'm referring to stories in which the core message is "it was very hot today" or "it was very rainy."
Typically a story about a hot day is illustrated by vision of people at the beach and children splashing in public pools. Thus the story becomes: "It was hot today and we went swimming." Dust off the Gold Walkley.
Soft royal stories. The only time I want to hear about the British Royal Family is in the event of a birth, a death, an assassination, a major scandal like Sarah Ferguson trying to sell access to ex-hubby Prince Andrew, or an abdication.
"Press calls" for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge opening a new wing at Yorkshire Public Library are not only non-stories, they're so dull to everyone on planet Earth (other than library-loving Yorkshiremen) that they surely must have a sedative effect.
Princess Diana killed in a car accident? Whoa! That's a legitimate royal story. Prince Harry turns up to rugby training? That's ... well, that's just rugby training. Put that Pulitzer Prize on hold.
Who won what on reality TV last night. These stories are a big deal not only on breakfast shows like Today and Sunrise (where they are glorified house ads for network content), they're regurgitated on national news websites.
My, how things have changed. I've tried to imagine what it would've been like to tune into the 11am news in my youth to find out who won the previous night's episode of Sale of the Century. I can almost envisage it, complete with footage from the mad minute, angsty moments in the gift shop and a serious interview with Tony Barber. Even as a kid I would've found it beyond stupid.
New Apple products. It's not only technology geeks who line up outside Apple stores each time the company releases a re-badged version of the same phone it's been selling for 10 years now. The nerds are dutifully joined by TV cameramen and reporters who Apple has fooled into thinking that a company selling things to customers is a newsworthy event. It's not. It's retail at best, undeclared advertorial at worst.
Anniversaries. Five years since the Boxing Day tsunami! Ten years since Diana died! Forty years since man walked on the moon! These were big yarns on the day they happened. Thousands of days later, though? Not so much.
I got chatting to a journalist friend recently who bemoaned the fact she was going to Tasmania next month. "Twenty years since Port Arthur?" I ventured. "Yeah," came the response, followed by a heavy sigh. There was a terrible gun massacre there in April 1996. Next month there'll just be a bunch of journos bugging the locals.
So thank goodness for nature documentaries. On Saturday night, once I'd finished shouting at the story about a possible trigger for a double dissolution election, I was utterly transfixed by Attenborough's Fabulous Frogs. The BBC program featured the famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough sharing his passion and knowledge about frogs.
Of all the slimy amphibians Sir David chatted about as he held them up to the camera, the golden "poison dart" frog (phyllobates terribilis) really captured my attention. A vividly bright yellow, the frog's skin contains enough venom to kill 10 adult humans. In its native Panama, Sir David explained, tribes would wipe the tips of their blow-pipe darts on the frogs' skin to ensure death among their enemies.
"Of course it's not the only creature that uses its bright colour as a survival tool," Sir David said as he held the killer frog while wearing latex gloves for protection."In the wild, many animals rely on bright, lurid colours to send a warning that they are very poisonous and very, very dangerous."
Suddenly the penny dropped: so that's why Donald Trump is bright orange.