Thursday, 8 June 2017

More news management (update)

Returning to a post from yesterday...

I'm unable to load the video onto the blog but you can view it here. It's 'gone viral', because it contains a clumsy edit 17 seconds in. 

Many people (from Katie Hopkins to Paul Joseph Watson) believe that the BBC was editing out - i.e. censoring - something that the nursery owner was saying.

They presume that the thing 'being edited out' was the thing she'd being telling other media outlets and which other media outlets had been reporting (and the BBC hadn't): that the alleged attackers made references to "Allah" while carrying out their attack on the nursery worker.

I tried to find the original interview using TV Eyes but the BBC appears to have only ever broadcast this edited interview, having never interviewed the lady live and 'uncensored'. 

Given how often she mentioned 'the Koran' and 'Allah' in her other media interviews it would be very surprising if she didn't mention them in her interview with the BBC. Whether the bit 17 seconds in was where she mentioned them or whether she mentioned them either before or after the part of the interview captured in that clip, we'll probably never know. But, using Occam's Razor, I would say it is much more likely than not that the BBC was engaged in some kind of 'news managing' by 'editing' some of what she said here - and that it was the very things Katie H and Paul Joseph Watson suspected (the Allah bits).  

This, however, is where the plot thickens even more because a senior BBC reporter, Daniel Sandford, has made two forays onto Twitter (yesterday and today) in response to the Westmonster blog's criticisms of the BBC.

Here are his not-entirely-gracious tweets (in chronological order):

  • Nursery worker stabbed in Wanstead by three women.
  • Not being treated as terrorism.
  • Of course we are.. What makes you think the Allah/Koran stuff is accurate? Were you there? Did you take a statement? I think the police have.
  • 1) How we work: See story. Check it. Assess it. Report it, if accurate. 2) How Westmonster work: See story. Does it fit narrative? Print it.
  • You know why. Because no concrete evidence that we are aware of that anything was shouted about the Koran or Allah.
  • It is also a fact that when we checked this with police - who have interviewed actual witnesses - they cautioned against that version.
  • As I explained yesterday we actually check stories before we publish. Sorry the facts as we can establish them don't fit your narrative.
  • Was the nursery boss a witness to the attack? Let's wait for the full facts.
  • I was reporting on London Bridge attack yesterday so didn't interview nursery boss myself, but checked the Allah story and it was dubious.
  • You'll have to ask the people who wrote the story. I can only tell you what I did which was check it. Now, back to my day off.
  • By the way the local paper has amended its version [He's correct about thatas interviewee has retracted her original (2nd hand) account. [That would be quite a development, if true].
  • Everything else she said WAS corroborated.
  • I have got an idea for a Westmonster story. Go and interview the woman who was attacked, instead of arguing with real journalists.

Curiously, I can't see him ever having directly answered any of the questions about why that video was edited and what was edited out, but nor does he deny it was edited; indeed, from everything he tweets it seems pretty clear to me that approves of the story being 'managed' in such a way so as to keep the 'dubious' claims out of the story until they'd been fully checked and verified. Interestingly, he also says that the police "cautioned against that version" of the story (the one containing the references to Allah and the Koran - a police caution that the BBC appears to have been faithfully heeded. 

Here, incidentally, is where things gets even odder. Daniel Sandford makes the point that the local paper (the Ilford Recorder) has amended its version "as [the] interviewee has related her original (2nd hand) account". The BBC website, however, has gone in the other direction. Later yesterday evening the BBC finally followed all those other media outlets and added the bit about the Koran and Allah to its online report:

So if Daniel Sandford is correct and Ms Stevens has retracted her statement, then why hasn't the BBC followed the Ilford Recorder's example and updated its article to remove those references?

The problem with trying to 'manage the news' in this was is that you end up looking as if you're manipulating your audience - as the BBC evidently were trying to do here. By lagging behind most other media outlets for hours and not including the Islam-related bits until later in the day it only makes the BBC look like an over-protective nanny that doesn't trust its audience. And now, having reported such things at last, if Daniel Sandford is correct, the BBC now appears to be guilty of failing to update its story again after its main interviewee (apparently) changed her story.

It's all a bit messed-up, isn't it?


  1. BBC Fake News Version: " How we work: See story. Check it. Assess it. Report it, if accurate."

    Let's do a reality check on that you don't. This is how you work:

    - Choose narrative.
    - Speculate about public opinion, concern being expressed, to justify the narrative (Mr and Mrs Somesay are useful here).
    - Phone up your mates in a charity or a dodgy outfit like Chatham House, or maybe a friend from the Guardian , and get them to bolster the narrative with a few juicy quotes. They will be only too happy to do so.
    - Interview someone who will say what you want to say without you having to say it. Today was a good example on Radio 4 with "Trumpophobic" Anne Applebaum saying Trump had already committed impeachable offences. Her evidence? Don't ask for evidence, punk.
    - Use fake film to shore up the narrative. Film tiny demonstrations to make them look like they are huge. Focus on libellous posters being carried by demonstrators that say things you can't. When it comes to migrants show women and tiny crying children. When it comes to 25 year old migrants claiming to be 17, don't show them.
    - Do not report anything that conflicts with the narrative. That's why the BBC tried for 5 days not to report anything about the horrendous attacks in Cologne. That's why you won't hear much if anything about the wall being built by the EU to keep out illegal immigrants, drugs and other contraband.
    - Use mockery. Of course you can rely on the tame comedians on your entertainment progs like HIGNFY to back up the narrative. But news presenters can add in their own jokes e.g. about "strong and stable" (but not "The many not the few" of course). Also you can use special items on news programme from journalists who are deluded in thinking they are funny to do "takes" on the subject which back the narrative. Yes, we mean you
    Jonny Diamond and Steve Smith.

  2. Sykes Rule in effect. You're right about the dangers of 'managing' the news ending up being manipulation. In this case, the BBC could have played the whole thing, and then have the reporter or studio anchor follow up by saying she has retracted that bit.

    Or, as it's a second-hand account from someone already compromised, just don't show it at all. Fill the 30 seconds of air time with something else.