Saturday 8 August 2015

Crying wolf, Newsnight-style

Just to further an earlier point (one I made four days ago, using sticky back plastic)...

Ian Katz's Newsnight seems to be becoming somewhat obsessive in labelling its features as "exclusives". 

I speculated the other day that this is probably because of the Savile/McAlpine fiascos and that Newsnight is now desperately trying to justify its existence by boasting as loudly as it can about every new 'scoop' that comes its way - however tenuous those claims to a 'scoop' may be.

Last night's Newsnight added the QED to that speculative point (or so I reckon).

It began with the increasingly familiar words:
Tonight, a Newsnight exclusive...
The 'exclusive' in question concerned an interview with a former British soldier who served in Afghanistan.

Kirsty Wark's opening presentation outlined what the ex-soldier had told Newsnight: that British forces in Afghanistan became "increasingly despairing that Taliban detainees were let go simply because there was nowhere to hold them".

This, however, is a story I've heard before - even on the BBC.

Rules of engagement imposed upon the British army (by the previous Labour government?) meant that rules had to be followed, even regarding murderous Taliban captives. Many a Taliban killer had to be given over to the Afghan authorities after a strictly limited period of time. The Afghan authorities then, apparently, let many of them go. 

That bit, however valuable, didn't seem particularly 'exclusive' to me.

The one bit that truly did seem new and genuinely 'exclusive'...and I feel a bit sorry for Mark Urban for having been dragged into Ian Katz's 'exclusive' obsession here...was that the former British soldier then made an allegation that the Taliban terrorist who laid the bomb which killed a female British soldier had been released by the British army as a goodwill gesture towards the locals during a Muslim festival and, thus, was now at large. 

Now, that does seem plausible I have to say, but the present government, as Mark Urban made clear, very strongly denies the ex-soldier's' version of events, saying that the Taliban fighter was handed over to the Afghan authorities and then convicted and given a gaol sentence.

As a result I was none the wiser as to which version of events (both credible) was correct. 

Shouldn't Newsnight have dug a good deal deeper here and attempted to find out who was closer to the truth before broadcasting this?...

...especially as the former British soldier (as Mark noted) is presently in dispute with the MoD over financial compensation for a bomb-related injury and post-traumatic stress...

...(which might not make him entirely impartial). 

Nothing that Mark Urban (as scrupulous as ever) said in his following studio chat with Kirsty Wark dispelled my impression that Newsnight was trying to make a lot more of this than was in any way justified by the facts. 

Was this really the exclusive Newsnight claimed it to be? Or just a very interesting interview with a former British soldier in Afghanistan that firmly reiterated some previously-reported things about the absurdities of the UK's 'respectful' rules of engagement, whilst merely adding a strongly denied claim about one specific incident?

I'm very much inclining towards the latter here (as you may have guessed) and am also re-making the point that Ian Katz and Newsnight ought to be much more cautious about engaging in hyperbole (about their reporting) on a daily basis. 

Hyperbole, after all, is closely related to the idea of 'crying wolf'. And we all know what happened to the (BBC) boy who did that.

1 comment:

  1. Bluestone 42 was a lot funnier. And more accurate.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.