November 03, 2006

News or Magic?

Are the BBC in the business of journalism or magic?

I only ask because they seem to be pulling ‘news’ stories out of thin air, and I’d love to know how it’s done.

I’m referring to this story which may have been edited by the time you come to read it, but at the moment is an unattributed piece (other than to Nick Robinson) that says Gordon Brown won’t face a serious challenger in his bid to be Prime Minister.

Says who!?!

There seem to have been a spate of stories recently which include the words:

“The BBC has learned…”

There will then follow some information which often has no source attached to it, leading us to speculate that the article could have read:

“A BBC’s journalist’s uncle, who knows a man who knows a guy, says…”

Didn’t the Hutton affair teach the BBC to always have two sources for every story? Shouldn’t they attribute their sources as well? Otherwise we seem to be in the dark about which patch of sky the news is falling from.

- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. The BBC News website has been a source of much amazement for me recently. It’s turning more into a red-topped tabloid than a respectable news website. A lot of the stories are so sensationalist and the quality of the English used, even if the grammar is mostly correct, is very poor. Almost as if someone foreign with a limited command of English is writing it.

    There was a story I was going to blog about the other day, but I decided not to because I’ve already had one BBC News rant recently (which was totally justified.) I can’t find the link now but it was basically explaining how 187 holidaymakers were left “stranded” in Turkey when their aircraft had to divert to Rhodes due to weather and couldn’t pick them up. It then went on to say how the tour operator had put them up in hotels overnight and how another aircraft had been sent after a 24-hour delay.

    How on earth is that newsworthy? So what if a few people had a 24-hour delay? It’s not uncommon, especially if bad weather is involved. Using the word “stranded” was a total misnomer, it wasn’t as if they were abandoned in the middle of the Sahara and left to fend for themselves; they were put up in hotels with everything paid for, as per their holiday contracts, until the airline was able to send another aircraft out. Big bloody deal. All that happened was a few people got an extra day’s holiday, and somehow that makes the national news as if it’s a major event.

    As news websites go, it’s still the best of the lot but I do worry about the direction in which the quality of reporting is heading sometimes.

    03 Nov 2006, 00:30

  2. Adam

    Isn’t that what political journalism’s about? Seeing as no-one in government’s supposed to tell journalists anything – especially civil servants – sources do have to remain secret. Who’s gonna tell you anything if you go and blab their name about?

    But at the same time, I can see how in the world of 24 hour news, there is a pressure to beat the online papers to political stories…maybe this one did just have one source..?

    03 Nov 2006, 13:23

  3. Gregg

    I’m guessing, from your shock at an un-attributed story, that you’ve never, ever read a newspaper. And all anyone could possibly have learnt from Hutton is not to cross Alistair Campbell.

    04 Nov 2006, 03:34

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