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BBC’s Madeleine McCann coverage indefensible


Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 13 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have, to put it mildly, mellowed.

I'm not a believer in brushing the past under the carpet. I've written some offensive rubbish on here in the past: deleting it and pretending it never happened doesn't change that. I hope that stumbling across something that's 13 years old won't offend anyone anew, because I hope that people can understand that what I thought and felt and wrote about then is probably very different to what I think and feel and write about now. It's a relic of an (albeit recent) bygone era.

So, given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views may well have changed in the last 13 years. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find utterly cringeworthy today.
  • This post might use words or language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate, offensive, embarrassing, or all three.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken, and embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

Peter Horrocks has written an interesting piece on his BBC blog defending the way the organisation has told the story of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance. Unfortunately, his defence makes little sense. Some selected extracts…

Often we’re not able to give viewers any new information and that’s one of the things I spend a lot of time talking to my journalists about, to focus on facts … I know that many other TV and radio networks have been absolutely extraordinary, always talking about it in terms of sympathy and their feelings

I am incomplete agreement with Mr Horrocks here: Reportage of the facts, not of feelings, is exactly where BBC News should be focussed in this instance.

Questions have been raised over why we used a helicopter to cover the McCanns’ journey home from East Midlands airport.

An understandable question: Coverage of a car driving from one place to another has apparently little news value, and adds few new ‘facts’. So why did the BBC cover it?

The McCanns’ return was an important emotional moment in this story, and something which we felt we needed to cover for continuous news.

Eh? The BBC, which Mr Horrocks says focuses entirely on facts, and indeed is better than its rivals because of its emotional detachment from the story, felt the need to give continuous coverage to a car journey because it was an “emotional moment in this story”.

I sense a gap in the logic.

This 1,208th post was filed under: Media, News and Comment.

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Comments and responses

Comment from hampshire terrier

    13.41, 11/09/2007

I absolutely agree with your sentiment. I have found the vast majority of the case coverage disgusting and blinkered.

We have seen people who know none of the parties involved claiming the police are framing the McCanns, we have seen forensic experts denouncing evidence that has not even been seen by them and we have seen a wave of sympathy for suspected killers in what would be one of the most sinister tales of our time should any guilt be proven.

For ‘impartial’ BBC reports to be constructed in this way is upsetting, let’s have some objectivity!! You would think they could learn from their mistakes in coverage of the Iraq war yet it is still tabloid-style journalism on a state-funded platform.

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BBC’s Madeleine McCann coverage indefensible

Comment from Mike P

    08.51, 12/09/2007

I personally believe that they are as guilty as a man found with his finger in his dog’s ass who then denies owning a dog

Comment from garth

    12.11, 12/09/2007

here here, I agree that this slack coverage is pretty symptomatic of the low quality of journalism about today (aside from bloggers of course)

Comment from Matthew

    14.21, 12/09/2007

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    17.59, 26/09/2007

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

I’m glad that I’m not the only one who feels this way about coverage of the story – there does seem to be some consensus. Perhaps at some point the BBC will learn that in their quest to become ‘accessible’ they’ve gone too far, and reign the journalists back in a bit.

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