Friday 23 May 2014

Head of Newsroom tells BBC staff: "Don't do anything stupid!"

This is now...

The upshot of DB's latest fine work in highlighting bias at the BBC through the tweets of BBC journalist - the Jasmine Lawrence affair, taken up by Guido Fawkes, the Daily Mail and the Huff Post - is that the Head of the BBC Newsroom, Mary Hockaday, has now sent an e-mail to BBC staff warning them "Don't do anything stupid!" on social media.

The Guardian quotes her saying the following:
Social media is now a vital part of our work, allowing us to get our journalism to new audiences, connect with people, and gather news as it happens.
But the guidance is clear when it comes to personal activity: 'As a BBC member of staff – and especially as someone who works in News – there are particular considerations to bear in mind. They can all be summarised as: 'Don't do anything stupid.'
"I'd also specifically draw your attention to the following section: 'You shouldn't state your political preferences or say anything that compromises your impartiality. Don't sound off about things in an openly partisan way. Don't be seduced by the informality of social media into bringing the BBC into disrepute.'
Anti-UKIP BBC editor Jasmine Lawrence, who broke that guidance, subsequently deleted her Twitter account and was taken of the BBC's election coverage. The BBC have also apparently launched an investigation in the affair.

This isn't DB's first scoop by any means. In fact, one of his earlier scoops foreshadows this one to quite a remarkable extent.

Please cast your minds back to October 2010 [ah, I remember it well!] and you find DB busting another BBC editor, Rachel Kennedy, for politically-loaded tweets [an anti-Mrs Thatcher tweet especially]. 

...and that was then

Again Guido Fawkes took up DB's scoop, and the story spread to the Spectator. Then, again, and just as swiftly as this time, the Head of BBC News at the time, Helen Boaden, sent out an e-mail to her staff:
Dear All,
We have had some occasions recently of BBC News staff using social networking sites to share with the world their somewhat controversial opinions on matters of public policy and the future of the BBC. Unsurprisingly, these have been picked up by the wider web and used to discredit the BBC and its impartiality. We have Editorial Guidelines which cover the personal use of the internet …which everyone should observe. We also have brains and judgement which I suggest people fully engage before rushing to communicate. Hx
The chatty tone of that e-mail obviously didn't hit home hard enough. BBC News staff kept on using social networking sites "to share with the world their somewhat controversial opinions on matters of public policy" in the following years - the evidence for which can be found in DB and David Preiser's massive In Their Own Tweets archive over at Biased BBC - and now Helen B's successor has had to tell them off all over again. 

Maybe Mary Hockaday's more schoolmarmish tone will hit home harder. Or maybe not.

I rather suspect that DB will have many more scoops, thanks to the 'rush to communicate' without 'brains' or 'judgement' of so many incautious BBC tweeters. 

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