With the election finally over, let’s take a moment to review the Beeb’s coverage before we move on. This is possibly one for the train spotters, but it’s important not least because of the Beeb’s claim that individual examples of bias aren’t persuasive as they are trying to achieve balance over time. How the Beeb does so is anyone’s guess, as there’s no evidence they monitor it. However, let’s be radical: let’s assume they’re not lying. So let’s look at the coverage of the election (okay, from the moment Palin was selected) on Justin Webb’s blog. And let’s take with the treatment of Palin. To anticipate a few preliminary objections:
- Why Webb? Well, he’s the North American Editor, so it seems reasonable.
- Why the blog? I don’t think the Beeb’s going to let me have all the tapes of Webb’s broadcast coverage. And, frankly, I don’t want them. But not to worry: we know that the same rules regarding impartiality apply, so the blog entries should, if Webb’s doing his job, present a balanced and impartial view.
- Why Palin? Webb’s blogged on her a lot, which means there’s a decent sample. And she’s someone on which there are significantly differing views, which we should therefore expect to see reflected in the coverage. As Webb puts it, she is immensely grating on those who do not like her, but immensely pleasing to those who do.
So let’s look at the balance:
As for Sarah Palin! Her creationist views are bound to become an issue (can you really have a president who denies basic truths about the world?)
So Webb’s coverage of Palin begins, and with characteristic style – ignoring the fact that, as the Beeb’s admitted, she’s not a creationist, and that she’s not running for president. I’m going to chalk that one up as a negative comment.
However, I’m going to exclude those comments that are neutral – and I’m using the term loosely. Comments such as these:
- My prediction: she will be a brilliant candidate or blow up and take the whole party down with her. Not sure which.
- A view of Sarah Palin here that suggests she has an ability to crash and burn or remind us all of Ronnie (Reagan, that is) at his best: just dunno which yet.
So what’s that leave us with? Well, here are the postive comments, such as they are:
- Palins Punches: I liked the parliamentary-style jabs at Obama and they have peppered the news coverage, though I still think she is skating on thin ice.
- America’s Answer to Thatcher: with that quote about being grating or pleasing (I’m trying to be generous)
- Two posts about Palin getting more cheers than McCain: Disappointment? and Regan, Clinton, W and Obama. These really seem like digs at McCain, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.
- And an admission that She is not the harbinger of some dark witch-burning retreat into superstition and irrationality.
And on the negative side:
- The rumour that she wants to ban books – not true, says Webb, but reported anyway.
- Hagel questions Palin’s experience.
- Should McCain have picked Romney, he asks. And at about this point he entirely loses it…
- She’s the woman rational, educated Americans regard with ever-increasing horror
- Will she still debate? He asks, for no apparent reason. The answer, not surprisingly, is “yes”.
- Her voice cuts glass.
- Her world view is essentially ignorant.
- She’s not funny and she’s not clever; and
- She’s the preferred outcome for those who hate America… she pals around with people who believe in witches.
So, on balance, and over time, do you reckon that Webb thinks Palin would have: made a brilliant VP; been an awful one; or do those rules on impartiality and his professionalism make it just impossible to tell?