Death in the Dome.

In a post of that title simple57uk brings together several BBC reports of events in the New Orleans Superdome. He quotes extensively and compares earlier and later reports.

People evacuated to the Superdome had to spend days in squalor made worse by acts of intimidation and an atmosphere of incipient violence. Dreadful rumours telling of multiple murders and rapes must have seemed very plausible to them. However members of the press corps, who did not have the excuse of having undergone sleepless nights and frightening days, should not have let sympathy triumph over careful checking. Simple writes:

Looking back at the BBC article, hindsight clearly reveals a rumour-driven story-telling style of reporting

Of course the BBC was far from unique in that respect.

The Beeb, the War and Mother Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan has reportedly been a bit frustrated of late that press coverage has been trumped by hurricanes. She must be comforted to see that the BBC still considers her newsworthy for managing to get herself arrested in front of the White House. I have yet to see the Beeb take note of her partners in protest or her demonstrably extremist views [quoting Cindy Sheehan]:

“One thing that truly troubled me about my visit to Louisiana was the level of the military presence there. I imagined before that if the military had to be used in a CONUS (Continental US) operations that they would be there to help the citizens: Clothe them, feed them, shelter them, and protect them. But what I saw was a city that is occupied. I saw soldiers walking around in patrols of 7 with their weapons slung on their backs. I wanted to ask one of them what it would take for one of them to shoot me. Sand bags were removed from private property to make machine gun nests.”

Were she backed by neo-Nazis, would the Beeb care so little? Only one or two elected officials have been willing to show their faces with this crowd, but the Beeb doesn’t see the need to inform us of this. Katty Kay can keep us apprised of the latest anti-war developments but let’s keep Mother Sheehan’s coverage warm and fuzzy.

Hat tips: The Corner and Google (–for any ambitious BBC researchers out there!)

An excerpt from today’s Times:

Personality clash drives newsman from BBC

HE WAS one of the BBC’s longest-serving newscasters and a veteran foreign correspondent. She had hosted daytime makeover shows after being a young City financier. And it is Philip Hayton who has quit the corporation after 37 years because of a personality clash with his co-presenter…

Silverton, who used to present makeover shows, worked for an investment bank before opting for a career in the media…

One critic has described the glamorous Silverton as looking “not only as if she had come fresh from a beauty salon but as if she usually worked in one”.

Hayton has covered more than 20 conflicts as a BBC foreign correspondent and broke the news of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s death. When asked during a BBC children’s webchat what skills were required to be a news presenter, he replied: “It’s helpful if you’ve been a reporter so that’s why they generally appoint presenters who’ve been reporters.

“Increasingly TV news is becoming more glamorous,” he said, but being glamorous was “certainly not the be-all and end-all, and it’s surprising what you can do with make-up, haircuts and nice clothes”.

He believes a strong journalistic background to be vital for BBC News presenters; Silverton’s rise through entertainment shows may not have impressed the veteran.

The BBC’s race to the bottom continues. More in the Daily Telegraph.

From the MediaGuardian Diary:

New Labour evangelist Tim Allan must have been having a good old chuckle this morning after the results of his dirty work against the BBC bore fruit. Allan was, of course, the PR man who leaked a tape of the memorably injudicious speech that BBC sacred site John Humphrys made at a PR forum.

Humphrys must have realised that the scorn he poured on the government during the address left himself vulnerable to attack, and so it proved to be when the great man measured up to David Blunkett on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 and queried a tabloid story about the pensions secretary’s private life.

“Can you carry on doing your job in the cabinet with the kind of publicity that you’re getting?” Humphrys asked, which led to this instant Blunkett riposte: “Can you carry on doing your job at the BBC with the kind of publicity that you’ve been getting?”

Monkey’s match report: Blunkett 1, Humphrys 0.

Touché! See also Thompson spooked by Sky News, as noted by Ritter in the B-BBC comments:

Someone tell the producers on BBC1 drama Spooks they aren’t helping director general Mark Thompson’s crusade to boost News 24. Mark says he’s tired of turning up in newsrooms and studios to find Sky News on the monitors, rather than News 24.

You might want to have a chat with Peter Fincham then, Mark. Despite protestations a couple of years ago from ex-controller Lorraine Heggessey that Spooks doesn’t plug Sky News, last night’s episode of the latest series of the hit MI5 drama featured no less than five – count ’em – Sky News presenters. If even MI5 tunes into Sky to find out the latest news then what hope does News 24 have?

Presumably Mark’s staff prefer Sky so they can be first with the news too!

Today’s Sunday Telegraph has a revealing article, Oops! TV crews left deflated as Rita blows herself out

, by Karyn Miller, including the following (underlining added):

Among the glummest faces were the huge crews of television journalists sent from Britain to cover the hurricane, many of whom looked as if they were reporting typical autumn weather in England.

The BBC had the biggest team, with a total of 34 reporters, producers, cameramen and others. Nine, including three correspondents, are based in New Orleans and 25 in and around Texas.

The Sky News team consisted of an anchor, three reporters, a weather forecaster, four producers and three cameramen – a team similar in size to the one that covered Hurricane Katrina. Throughout the day, Sky’s team broadcast updates on what rapidly turned into an anti-climax for television crews expecting to report live from a major disaster.

Jeremy Thompson anchored the rolling news programme while David Bowden and Alex Rossi were the reporters in the field, along with Stuart Ramsay from Channel Five who also did reports for Sky.

A Sky spokesman, who declined to say how much it had spent on its coverage, said: “It was important to have a full team because it came on the back of Hurricane Katrina and we were not there just to cover the hurricane but also the evacuation of the residents.”

ITN had only one reporter, Robert Moore, with a producer and a cameraman.

I suppose the sheer disparity in the numbers outlined above is because of the unique way the BBC is funded!

Friends fall out.

The NPR ombudsman, Jeffrey Dvorkin, criticises BBC coverage of Katrina.

I am sure that the BBC is not inventing these interviews. But the effect is that it sounds less like reporting than like caricature. Public radio listeners likely understand what is going on — that BBC cultural assumptions about the United States remain mired in a reflex European opposition to American foreign policy. But what comes through the radio sounds mean-spirited and not particularly helpful; it probably evokes knowing glances and smirks among editors and producers back in London.

There is more right than wrong in the BBC’s coverage. But when it comes to portraying certain American cultural expressions, the BBC seems to have a tin ear.

(Via Instapundit – same link as below.)

I must take issue

with my esteemed colleague Andrew’s harsh description [CORRECTION: Andrew has pointed out that the description was Stephen Pollard’s rather than his own] of this piece by Justin Webb as “drivel”. On the contrary, it is rather clever. Look at this:

Rita and Katrina have both been events of massive force, sweeping away an awful lot, but Katrina – because of the ghastly failure of the authorities to prepare and to rescue those at risk – is thought by some to have done more than physical damage.

Bill Clinton is among many eminent Americans who wonder whether Katrina’s biggest impact might be psychological, political.

Students are invited to discuss the following, with special attention to what was not said: (1) “The authorities” (2) “Thought by some”(3) The citation of Bill Clinton as an eminent American who thought the impact of Katrina would be “psychological, political.” (Bonus points for candidates who raise other relevant statements by Mr Clinton.)

Now look at this:

Will the American social and economic system – which creates the wealth that pays for billionaires’ private jets, and the poverty which does not allow for a bus fare out of New Orleans – be addressed?

It has been tinkered with before of course, sometimes as a result of natural disasters. There were for instance plenty of buses on hand for this week’s Rita evacuation.

The first sentence might seem odd coming from a graduate in Economics, until you remember that Mr Webb got his degree from the LSE – sorry, couldn’t resist that – and has spent his entire working life at the BBC. What I meant to admire was the way these two paragraphs talked about buses without talking about the wrong sort of buses.

More blogging on this story from:


Ann Althouse

Clive Davis

Andrew Sullivan– a partial defence which makes several fair points.

Many of Mr Webb’s pieces do admit his own propensity to prejudice, and that is a start. At the start of an article he often throws out a bit of red meat on a string to the chattering classes (“The real question – putting it baldly – is whether there is going to be a revolution”, “America is often portrayed as an ignorant, unsophisticated sort of place, full of bible bashers and ruled to a dangerous extent by trashy television, superstition and religious bigotry … I have done my bit to paint that picture…”) and then draws it back at the end. It is good that he tends to draw back in the end, but it would be even better if he didn’t pander to his readers’ prejudices in the first place.

(Hat tip: Kerry B and others)

UPDATE: Take a look at this commentfrom Jim Miller, too. America, rightly or wrongly, spends a great deal on welfare. It isn’t the devil-take-the-hindmost society portrayed here.

Following on from last week’s

Sunday Times exposé of product placement advertising on the BBC, this week’s Sunday Times has an amusing follow-up, BBC quietly pulls a plug on Spooks – it seems that following last week’s uproar the BBC have quietly doctored the third episode of Spooks on BBC1 to cover up a prominent Apple Computer logo:

On Friday the BBC press office initially claimed that the cut scenes had appeared only on a preview tape and were picked up during a final edit before going on air.

The corporation’s spin doctors did not appear to realise that the scenes had already been broadcast on BBC3 and were doctored only after The Sunday Times article.

Later a spokesman said: “We are looking into why that version — that was not the final edit — went out.”

Yeah, right!