In journalism, friendly rivalries between competing organisations are part and parcel of the job. A bit of ribbing down the pub from your local newspaper colleagues about who got which story first and how is good for the soul, and keeps us on our toes.
But that’s quite different from the rather bitter attack on where we get our stories from by Christina Odone in The Daily Telegraph. Her argument centres around the allegation that the BBC frequently claims that it “has learned” a news story when, in fact, it’s already appeared in the papers. This, concludes Ms Odone, amounts to stealing.
Which would be fine, if it were actually true. The example she gives is the story of Eric Pickles and the coalition effectively abandoning its plans to bring back weekly bin collections – and “breaking news” delivered yesterday lunchtime. It’s certainly true that there was plenty of speculation in many of the papers yesterday about what the Government was going to announce, doubtless qualified by “sources close to…” whoever gave them the heads up.
But it’s also true that throughout yesterday morning and afternoon, several statements were emerging about the fine detail of the policy – some which came directly from BBC lobby correspondents. I know, because I saw them on the BBC’s news wires.
So what’s this got to do with radio? Well, towards the end of last year the Head of BBC East, Tim Bishop, carried out some research into where the local media actually gets his stories from. You can read the full findings here.
Interestingly, when under scrutiny, the report concludes
During the pure counting exercise it appeared that out of the [approximately 400] stories covered by the BBC no more than around 30 stories might, or were likely, to have been sourced by reading the papers or checking on their websites. After detailed discussions with both radio and newspaper news teams that figure is now 11 stories including 5 hard news stories.
Which rather calls into question some of Cristina’s views in the Telegraph.
That said, there’s still a sense of journalistic pride in knowing that you got the story before the other guy. The word “exclusive” is perhaps peddled around the BBC rather less than it used to be – since the advent of social media means that it’s highly likely that someone else might well have reported the details first.
It also comes down to resources. If you have hoards of reporters in the field, doing good old fashioned grass roots journalism, of course you’re more likely to get the scoop. But whilst we can argue over the mechanics for hours, perhaps the real question should be – does the audience really give a stuff?
Fortunately it seems that Telegraph readers have enough sense about them to make up their own minds. As one comment said :
Christina stop bickering and whining, it is another U turn and the BBC has a responsibility to report it and also verify the validity. Many,many,many, many people only get their news from the BBC, thank god.
Still, that didn’t stop the Telegraph attacking the BBC yet again last weekend with this gem about the Corporation apparently “appointing” a “Chair Champion” to teach people how to sit down – taking a whole seven paragraphs to get to the truth – that no such job exists.
Perhaps they were short of an exclusive that day,