Sunday 1 June 2014

Headhunters and headlines

The Mail on Sunday has one of those explosive headlines that leaps right out at a BBC-bias-obsessed blogger: 
'Conflict of interest' row as BBC boss's headhunter wife seeks its new chairman
Oh My God! BBC DG Tony Hall's wife is recruiting Chris Patten's replacement! Now that IS a conflict of interest!!

Then comes the Mail's opening paragraph:
The BBC’s Director General was at the centre of a conflict of interest row last night after it emerged that his wife’s company has landed the lucrative contract to recruit a new chair of the BBC Trust.
Still sounds bad but, hang on, a doubt has crept in: Is Tony Hall's wife herself headhunting the BBC chairman of the BBC Trust or is it her company? If the latter, she herself might not be directly involved herself. I'm getting a bit confused.

Then comes the Mail's second paragraph. Hopefully that will clear things up:
Tony Hall’s wife Cynthia earns a six-figure salary at headhunters Saxton Bampfylde, which is being paid tens of thousands to find a successor to Lord Patten.
Er, no. Does that mean that Lady Hall only works for this company rather than owning it, as the Mail has been implying so far? This is getting even more confusing.

Hmm. Well, Saxton Bampfylde has its own website. I'll check that out. It will tell me if Cynthia Hall owns it or not. 

Stephen Bampfylde, its co-founder, is Chairman of Saxton Bampfylde. Cynthia Hall herself only joined the company last year. The company was found in 1986. No, she doesn't own it. 

So when the Mail on Sunday says "BBC boss's headhunter wife seeks its new chairman" what it actually means is:
"A company for whom the BBC boss's headhunter wife works seeks its new chairman, though whether she herself will be involved in the process is not known."
Ah, but is her role "not known?" 

I should have read on to the very last paragraph of the Mail's article. It turns out that it is known after all. 

The Mail quotes Culture Secretary Sajid Javid's spokesman: 
A spokesman for Mr Javid denied a conflict of interest on the grounds that Lady Hall will not be involved in the recruitment process. 
Oh great, so it's a flipping non story after all!!!

Dear Lord, you have to have your wits about you not to get suckered by a sensationalist headline in the Mail on Sunday!

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