Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Truth is Out There, But How Bothered Are We Finding it?

There are some staggering details drip-dripping from the on-going BBC Newsnight controversy. Weeks ago I said categorically that George Entwistle's position as Director General of the BBC was untenable. Nothing since then has changed my opinion. If anything, the events since the airing of the Newsnight programme into claims by Steve Messham that he had been abused during the 1970’s and 1980’s, have only reinforced my view on Entwistle’s position.
In the last 48 hours we have learned that Entwistle, by his own admission in public statements, not only was not aware of the details of the Newsnight programme, that he did not watch it, nor that he was aware that Messham had privately (and wrongly) identified Lord McAlpine as his abuser. The mind goggles! This was the same Director General of the BBC brought in front of a political committee just three weeks ago to answer questions on what he knew about the BBC’s investigation of child abuse involving the late Jimmy Savile. One aspect of all this, and it should not be forgotten, is that Entwistle, as Director General of the BBC, is also Editor-in-Chief of all the BBC’s output, and not some politically appointed lord, doyen or public figurehead of the BBC.
Another aspect that should not be lost in all of this is the fact that Newsnight did not name McAlpine in the programme and actually came under fire by some within the Society of Professional Journalists for not naming McAlpine. Indeed, the subsequent chatter on social media sites, including Twitter, almost hinted at a growing momentum to bait and goad the BBC Newsnight team into revealing the name of the abuser in light of the BBC’s handling of the Savile scandal. While Newsnight ultimately held off naming the Messham’s abuser, it seems clear now that the editors of Newsnight didn’t once think it important to absolutely confirm the identity of the man Messham claimed had carried out the abuse. There is a troubling question behind all of this, and it is that how and why Lord Alpine’s name was introduced into the Newsnight investigation? In other words, did Messham solely identify Lord Alpine, or did the Newsnight investigative team introduce the name of the former Tory party member as part of a larger list of names to Messham in an effort to identify his abuser. Is this the same list ITV This Morning presenter Phillip Scofield so foolishly and clumsily waved in the face of David Cameron on live TV this week? Is it very same list which has been floating around the internet for several years and identifying up to a dozen or so Tory and Labour MP’s and ministers throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. Is it the same list that lawyer and CEO of Online Publishing Company, Giovanni Di Stefano, has been drawing upon without any factual evidence and credible proof to back up for several years?
There was a short and interesting debate on SKY News last night, during its paper review section, and while I am no great fan of the editorial persuasion on this network, modern journalism and how claims and accusations made during reporting is now under serious question. In a world of open access to a multitude of information, both accurate and inaccurate, serious and scurrilous, some of the basic principles of journalism seem to have utterly gone out the window in an effort to deliver a story quickly at the expense of basic fact-checking. There is a new and growing band of journalism emerging, which seems to adopt the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ policy, based on the projected view that we live in a world where we must fear and doubt everything placed in front of us. That means we are supposed to consider every terrorist act as an inside job or government conspiracy; suspend instinct and cast doubt on every judgement passed down on a criminal; suspect manipulation and agenda on every political decision made and every democratic vote passed; support and rejoice in personal achievement and success, while subsequently plotting and wishing the downfall and failure of those who rise to the top. Finding the truth in today’s world is no harder, no more difficult than it has ever been.
What we appear to have suspended most is common sense and paying attention to pretty basic detail. We’d rather have the truth delivered to us on a silver plate, labelled ‘TRUTH’, just so long as we don’t have to make too much effort ourselves to find it. 

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