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Diana Wallis

Media, Rumours, Fiction and Writing

My last two weeks involved a week’s beach holiday in the sun, meaning much reading and a week back in Brussels both to finalise loose ends and take my first step in a new minor role as a member of a Commission expert committee on Media Futures.

My weeks reading in the sun got me thinking about the linkages between legend, rumour, fact and fiction. I read in succession, A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside and then Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco. The first author I had not encountered before but was intrigued by the setting on an island off North Norway within the Arctic circle, having at least visited the island of Sommaroy and been struck by the way a guide had told us some disturbing local contemporary tales which had stayed with me, so I felt this was something I would relate to. Indeed it is beautifully written and compelling in terms of the countryside and the psychology of local myth and legend and how this can become entwined in and act upon the here and now.

Eco by contrast is a writer I respect not least for his writing on writing, Prague Cemetery is not a easy read and was undoubtedly meant to be provocative; it upset some of the Jewish community. It is intriguing in the way it highlights how a complete fiction manufactured by someone plausible – a notary – and fed into the rumour mill of journalism and chattering society can become a myth with terrible consequences; in this case the holocaust..

Then to complete my reading I started Shapiro’s book about who wrote Shakespeare, Contested Will. The preface alone is thought provoking, he recalls speaking at a school where a pupil authoritatively stated to him that of course Shakespeare did not write the plays, and so to the way in which all the theories about who else might have written the plays now get greater exposure on the internet and become seen by many as ‘the true story’. In a world of information overload how do we deal with this, how do we separate fact from fiction, and what is appropriate comment or speculation?

Yet watching the BBC ‘news’ last week there almost seemed to be a dearth of news on the breakfast time show, with one peculiarly manufactured story about ‘fancy’ continental versus British biscuits, which even had the senior news reader commenting as to whether or not they were still a ‘news’ programme. Perhaps we have now allocated too much time and space to news? Or is there now a reticence in reporting as a result of Leveson etc? It’s interesting to speculate. What sort of news or entertainment do we want or have these two become too blurred?

So with this as background I was intrigued to attend the second meeting of the EU Media Futures Forum ( for me the first meeting ). The Forum has been invited by Commissioner Kroes to look at major changes in the sector and come up with recommendations. As a former parliamentarian I particularly enjoyed the discussion around the proposition – whether consumers were out of control or in control! I am certainly looking forward to the next sessions in April and June.

All this is food for thought as I prepare to launch my own on-line ‘fictional’ writing experiment. The first instalment is now in preparation…. and can now be viewed at capitaineagnes.wordpress.com/ or followed on twitter @CaptaineAgnes Happy Reading!

Diana Wallis

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About Diana Wallis

A European from Yorkshire interested in people, politics, democracy, history and cultivating my garden!

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