almost a diary, Iraq, media

Quality Journalism?

At least for the mo­ment, I am not real­ly com­men­ting the quar­rel bet­ween the Labour go­vern­ment and the BBC that very like­ly led to the tra­gic sui­cide of Dr. Da­vid Kel­ly, who was the ori­gi­nal sour­ce be­hind the BBC Radio 4’s de­fen­ce cor­res­pon­dent An­drew Gil­li­gan’s claim that the British go­vern­ment, most pro­mi­nent­ly Alas­tair Camp­bell, Tony Blair’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions ad­vi­sor, ‘sexed up’ the Bri­tish Iraq dos­sier to make a more con­vin­cing case for war.

But wha­tever you think of the go­vern­ment’s, or the BBC’s, or Dr. Kelly’s, or any indi­vidual jour­na­list’s res­ponsi­bili­ty for the tra­gedy, some peop­le in go­vern­ment ob­vious­ly for­got some ba­sic rules of po­li­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. When some­one says “liar”, you don’t fuel that dis­cus­sion by sul­king­ly re­ply­ing “no, you are” when the only result will be that bad situ­ation be­comes an even wor­se one.

I just don’t un­der­stand why Mr Camp­bell felt the need to re­live Shell’s 1995 Brent Spar com­mu­ni­ca­tions disaster when there was no need what­so­ever?

Whatever the truth to his or An­drew Gil­ligan’s po­si­tion, tal­king about it cer­tain­ly made things worse at a time when the pub­lic dis­cour­se was “shame on you if you fool me once, shame on me if you fool me twice”. What­ever the truth to either side’s alligations, with­out fi­nal­ly fin­ding some buckets of poi­son some­where in the Iraqi de­sert, the only way for the British go­vern­ment to deal with the si­tu­ation would have been to shut up, not to hunt down an al­le­ged trai­tor or char­ging the BBC with jour­na­lis­tic mis­con­duct to ma­ke every­one be­lieve that there must be really some­thing to the story.

That’s all I’m going to say.

My for­mer em­plo­yer Ben Brad­shaw on the other hand, for­mer BBC jour­nalist and now Par­lia­men­tary Se­cre­tary in the Bri­tish Depart­ment for Envi­ron­ment, Food and Ru­ral Affairs, is very invol­ved in this row.

And, again, what­ever your opinion of all this: his re­cent de­plo­ring the lack of qua­lity jour­na­lism and sour­ce veri­fi­ca­tion seems to have some point when even “The Guar­dian“, even in a time­line of the affair publi­shed on July 19th, makes him a “For­eign Of­fice Mini­ster”, a po­si­tion he left in June 2002 when he was appoin­ted “De­puty Lea­der of the Hou­se of Com­mons”.