Sunday 31 May 2020

Always on Twitter

Twitter-happy Lewis

The Sunday Times quotes a number of former BBC figures today on the subject of the Maitlis affair, of which the most damning comes from an old-school BBC legend:
Sir John Tusa, founding Newsnight presenter: "No editor of Newsnight that I worked with would have allowed that to go through. No presenter would have written anything like that. It is self-indulgence and it does no service to viewers. You can either choose to be a celebrity or you can choose to be a journalist. You can’t be both." 
The paper summarises that into a striking headline:
Emily Maitlis was chasing fame, not the story, says BBC veteran
Other blasts-from-the-past focus on a particular problem with Newsnight, though one that was  ultimately first set in train by BBC management:
Roger Mosey, former editorial director of the BBC: “The BBC’s traditional restraint has been swept away in the age of social media. On-air staff have been actively encouraged to engage with their audiences and to show their personality.”

Peter Barron, former Newsnight editor: People at the BBC are concerned that journalists are more interested in breaking stories on Twitter than their own platforms. The nature of Twitter is driving broadcasters to be more eye-catching and that is leading into problematic territory.” 
The Sunday Times also includes a column by Matthew Syed. This is the paragraph that particularly stood out for me from it:
Matthew Syed, The Sunday Times: This is why the corrosion of the BBC’s reputation for impartiality is of unusually grave importance. I happen often to agree with the editorial stance of Newsnight, but even I can see how its bias is wrecking the credibility of the entire institution. This isn’t about the coverage of Dominic Cummings per se, but a slow-motion car crash that has been unfolding for months, its journalists making the tragic (but common) mistake of conflating the virality of its social media posts with the credibility of its analysis. This could yet destroy the BBC itself, turning a great organisation into a facet of polarisation rather than a bulwark against it.” 
That "slow-motion car crash" looks set to continue unless senior management at the BBC get a grip on it. Some Newsnight journalists are still posting on Twitter, heavily, seven days a week - which, it must be said I passing, surely can't be good for their mental well-being. The programme's policy editor Lewis Goodall even put in a Saturday night appearance this week to have his say on Dominic Cummings again - and only on Dominic Cummings. (I don't think he's had a day off for weeks).

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