Friday 4 September 2015

"Tell us your story. Tell us where have you come from. What's your name?"

Here's something you may have missed: The BBC's head of newsgathering, Jonathan Munro, on the World Service a couple of weeks back spelling out the BBC position on how the migrant crisis should be reported (and which has been carried through right across the BBC):
The language that we use is...we're perhaps not in the same place as Al Jazeera on this, though I think we are in the same sort of debate as they've been. 
I don't think there's anything wrong actually with using the word 'migrant' and the word 'refugee'. The vast majority of people that we're seeing coming through those borders, whether on land or by sea, are both migrants and refugees. 
The more about the dehumanisation of people and the way we cover it, which isn't just a language issue. 
When you're seeing 40,000 people coming through over a relatively short period of a number of weeks, what we're hearing on our radios and seeing on our screens are images and sounds that portray the volume of people and the way to dehumanise them is just to do that. 
And the way to keep them as human beings - and this is a much more important point it seems to me than the vocabulary - is to talk to them, to hear their stories as individuals, as human beings, as opposed to as part of a trend. 
So, you know, I was very pleased for example with some coverage that ran widely across the BBC where a reporter was on the island of Kos, which has just had a massive influx, as you all know, and the first thing he said as people literally got their feet wet getting off a boat was, "Tell us your story. Tell us where have you come from. What's your name?" 
And it's that humanity which is actually more important than, you know, vocabulary boundaries that some broadcasters may choose to put in place. 
We're not in the game of saying certain words aren't appropriate, as long as they're accurate and they reflect the story. The more important thing for us is to keep the human beings at the heart of it.


  1. The emoteathon continues on on the BBC (and other UK Media).

    Always a photo of a woman with baby even though the vast majority of migrants are (fit and healthy looking) men. Always a story of risk to life in Syria or Afghanistan (haven't heard any of the Kosovans or Albanians interviewed yet). Then the assertions that the government is "behind the curve" of public opinion. Any evidence of that? We know migration tops the public's concerns (presumably NOT in the sense that they want MORE mass immigration). So I treat such claims with scepticism.

    This BBC guidance on how to report is not replicated elsewhere. If the BBC is talking about say the Front National in France or Pegida, we don't see much of an attempt to "humanise" their supporters.

    It's a nonsense of course. This is news, not literature. You can't humanise the 100,000s of individuals involved - you can only make an assessment and then use "human interest" stories to illustrate your assessment.

    The issue is whether the assessment accurate. Most of the Syrian refugees do NOT appear to to be fleeing immediate danger, they are leaving relatively safe places like camps in Turkey and Syria and seeking a better life for their families.

    Are the "refugees" determined to give up on Sharia law, accept gender and gay equality, and act in accordance with parliamentary democracy? The BBC isn't even interested in the question.

  2. They are media professionals who do courses in this stuff. They know it's manipulative, and that's their reason for doing it. Remember Mark Easton's statement about the BBC having a remit for fostering a civil society.

    They truly believe it's their job to manipulate public thought in a preferred direction. Jonathan Marcus is one of the very few Beeboids I'll give the benefit of the doubt when reading his work. He's not really the political activist posing as a journalist like most of them. After all, when the BBC realized they needed a common sense approach to rebutting Katty Kay's anti-Jewish message during her Twitter Q&A a few years ago (, they turned to Marcus to explain that there really is no such thing as an all-powerful, omniscient Jewish Lobby pulling everyone's strings. It could be that he was the only BBC journalist who didn't believe there's more than a kernel of truth in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and was willing to write something up. Still, I'm disappointed in him for this blatant admission of wanting to manipulate the public.

  3. a man (a muslim) who has lived in Turkey (a muslim country) for 23 months. His wife and children drown attempting to get to Greece from Turkey. The man's son is pictured dead on a beach. There is much which is being assumed

  4. The problem is, however much the BBC want to concentrate on individual cases it is about numbers.


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