Thursday 15 March 2018

Katya Adler on reporting about Brexit

Katya Adler

For your information (or FYI, as they say)....

Here's what the BBC's Europe Editor Katya Adler had to say recently to Paul Blanchard of Media Masters about reporting about Brexit for the BBC:

Paul Blanchard: It is the single defining political issue of the generation now, Brexit, isn’t it? And I get the feeling no one quite knows what the hell’s going on. I tune into BBC news programmes for you to tell me what’s happening, frankly.
Katya Adler: I think we will look back and to see how big this really was. But I think you come across different attitudes, so those who think it’s very important and you care very much about it, and definitely if you dip your toes in the Twittersphere then you get those reactions, and that might include people saying, “You’re just part of the Brexit Broadcasting Corporation,” or “You’re just part of the Brussels Broadcasting Corporation,” because people feel so very strongly about this issue. On the other hand, there are also those who just say, “Haven’t we left yet? Why are we still talking about it? And why aren’t we talking about the health service more, and why are we still talking about Brexit?” So I’m aware of all of those attitudes, but my hat also is what’s going on on the other side of the channel and in the Irish Republic as well. So although this is domestically a huge issue – I’m British, this is the British Broadcasting Corporation – I’m very much following what the Europeans are thinking about it, what they’re writing about it and what they’re saying off the record – and I think from a broadcasting point of view what’s been frustrating for me in these most recent phases, is that before the official negotiations began, the so-called Article 15 negotiations as it’s called in Euro-speak, the Europeans, so prime ministers and members of the commission, were extremely keen to be interviewed and now they don’t want to. So I talk to them all the time, and it means keeping in very good contact. But when I’m package making for television, they don’t want to go on air so it’s off the record. So you end up saying things like, “My sources,” or this or that. And of course, in this era that we live in where there’s a lot of talk of fake news, and mistrust in news, and is news just part of the establishment, and that debate that we’re really living now, that’s a problem. Because people are like, “What sources? You’re making it all up, it’s all opinion.”
Paul Blanchard: That’s quite insulting, frankly.
Katya Adler: Okay, it’s my job, partly, to be insulted. If you go out to a public figure and say something… I mean, when I lived in the Middle East, I once received excrement in the post, I have to say that was really the highlight of my career. Insulting? I think when you go out in public and talk about controversial issues, such as I did in the Middle East and now obviously with Brexit, you expect a certain kind of backlash. It doesn’t mean you like it, and it also doesn’t mean that you dismiss it out of hand. I think it’s very important that I do, I mean, apart from the things that are just insane that are thrown at you, but if there is criticism of your coverage, I look at it and think, “Do they have a point?” and then carry on. But recently the Financial Times compared Brexit supporters and detractors to football fans. You know, others would say it’s almost like a religious fervour at times, and I think in that fevered atmosphere I and other colleagues covering the issue, we’re just in the wave.
Paul Blanchard: The issue of Brexit itself cuts across political parties, it cuts across families… like you say, it is quite a tribal thing. Do you take some comfort in the fact that you seem to be equally criticised for being pro-Brexit and pro-Remain, and if both sides are having a go at you for bias, that tends to me to seem that you’re actually doing a pretty good job of remaining neutral and impartial.
Katya Adler: I think that’s generally what one said. I mean, definitely when I was in the Middle East we said, “Well, if we’re getting flak from both sides we must be doing a good job.” I think with Brexit, it changes so much from day to day, and as you say, this this affects British society so deeply, I don’t think I can afford to be flip about it. So it’s not like I look at my Twitter feed and think, “Oh, I’ve got hate mail from Remainers and Leavers, therefore it’s all okay.” I don’t feel that. So I have a look and I listen, I do not engage actually, because I made a decision that again - sorry to keep referring back to the Middle East, but for me it’s comparable in the barrage of accusations that might be thrown at you – but at the time it was very much our policy to answer each and every complaint, apart from the letter I received with excrement in the post.
Paul Blanchard: You wouldn’t have time to do that now.
Katya Adler: I wouldn’t have time to do that, and also I think on the Twittersphere you can just get involved in an endless debate, and I don’t think that’s productive. So I only engage in tweets where a question is asked, like a factual question – in other words, whether it’s positive or negative I don’t engage, but I do read and I take on board, and think, “Do they have a point? Do they not have a point?” and then move on.


  1. Adler's probably the least worst broadcaster on Brexit,which is not saying much.

  2. "Because people are like, “What sources? You’re making it all up, it’s all opinion.”

    Paul Blanchard: That’s quite insulting, frankly.

    No, Paul. It's just highly likely.

    Ask Nick Robinson.

  3. Effectively she is embedded with the enemy forces, how can she get it 'just about right'?


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