After more than 20 years in journalism I’m not sure whether I still believe in the idea of a ‘silly season’ when it comes to news. The fact is, as has been highlighted both on HTFP and on this blog over recent months – remember the Whitstable custard shortage and the dead cat that united a Midlands town in grief – you can find daft news stories in the local press at any time of the year if you look hard enough.
Nevertheless, the current spate of stories about big cat sightings in the regional media is probably indicative to some extent of the time of year.
It all started in the Scottish town of Helensburgh when Ministry of Defence policeman Chris Swallow claimed to have captured footage of a large animal sniffing its way up and down a railway track.
But the story quickly moved south, with the Derby Telegraph carrying news of one of the fairly frequent big cat sightings in God’s Own County.
Then it was the turn of the Croydon Guardian to get in on the act following a sighting of the puma-like creature in Crystal Palace, with the paper helpfully providing an ‘artist’s impression’ as noted in our regular Friday Funnies page last week.
There seems little doubt of the existence of big cats in the UK, with the likeliest explanation that they originated from creatures turned loose following the passage of a piece of legislation banning the keeping of wild animals as pets in the 1970s, but the fact that no-one has managed to capture irrefutable evidence of one on film – and that papers are reduced to providing ‘artist’s impressions’ of them – probably demonstrates why they still make news.
As a friend of mine pointed out the other day, it’s Nessie I feel sorry for…..