Barbara Rowlands

Time Out said it all. “OUR CITY” splashed
across its stark white cover summed it up, though the “London carries
on” subhead was an unnecessary afterthought. Inside, novelist Julie
Myerson brilliantly described that split-second moment that flips a
city from safe to unsafe.

Myerson has probably read Time Out
since arriving in London 20 years ago when it was her delight to go
“round and round on the Circle line with no destination in mind”. Now
she rides the Tube with a “feisty kind of caution”, fearing for her
children and inhabiting the “darkest, tiniest slit that exists between
safe and not safe”.

Because she had a grasp of what Londoners
actually feel, her piece had more raw power than Mayor Ken
Livingstone’s personal message to Time Out readers urging them to,
well, carry on and enjoy the city’s cultural and gastronomic delights.

Matthew
Parris’s piece in the Saturday Times (23 July) put journalists squarely
in the dock. Where do all the stories the press take one sniff at and
then realise they are sniffing at the wrong tree go to? What about the
“high grade” explosives the 7 July bombs were supposedly made of?

What
happened to that story? And the “masterminds” that “slipped” in and out
of Britain? Journalists, says Parris, think readers don’t notice, but
such dead-end stories accentuate the impression that we face a
formidable, well-organised and sophisticated foe.

Al-Qaeda is a
narrative, he says, and everyone loves a thriller. But talking up
al-Qaeda and knitting a series of random facts into a satisfying whole
plays into the hands of the terrorist, Government and security
services. All come out looking good.

Plunging deeper into why anyone would want to blow up their fellow men, New Scientist had the answer.

Nice
young lads, comfortably off, no history of drug or alcohol abuse,
vulnerable human beings looking for a group and wanting to be heroes.

Away
from the bombings, there was Jon Ronson’s meticulous feature in the
Weekend Guardian tracking down bankers, list brokers and lifestyle
analysts who were largely to blame for the death of debt-laden Richard
Cullen.

Light and somewhat alarming relief came in the form of
Five’s programme for the prurient, Extraordinary People – this one
about women who have 100 orgasms a day. Too jaw-dropping to watch the
entire hour.

Barbara Rowlands is deputy head of the department of journalism at City University, London

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