Saturday, February 09, 2008

Edit, dit, it... it isn't what you thought it was

For reasons that will soon become clear, I am highly sensitive to the accuracy of what gets served up to us by our publishers and broadcasters.

Especially when it comes to matters of 'fact', but also when subjective agendas and techniques get introduced that can at best steer the way they are viewed with subjective enhancements, or at worst plain be fiddled to fit.

And all to often it seems to get explained away airily by all sorts of excuses that simply are not good enough, with a total lack of tangible accountability or consequence to at least have some incentive not to play fast and loose again.... and again.

Worse, there seem now to be justifications based on what would once be inexcusable, simply because 'everyone does it', or the need to enhance reality to make things more 'entertaining'.

Just now I was one of the few in the nation up early enough to watch the BBC's weekly, meekly 'mea culpa' programme, Newswatch. The one where they atone in 5 minutes in a dead air slot for things that have gone out in prime time. With a successive or arrogant, defensive journalists and/or editors who are wheeled on to say they don't really see what the fuss is about.

And today my jaw was on the floor. And it was thanks to the actual footage shown, so credit to the Newswatch Editors. Basically there was a BBC TV news slot involving an ex-army chap making a comment about some issue, but whose words were then lifted and dumped elsewhere as some kind of response to a totally different story on a BBC Radio item.

Whilst grudgingly accepting the error, the morning's flak absorber airily dismissed it based on a variety of reasons that were certainly not excuses, and which we are hearing waaaay to often of late, and will doubtless continue to do for ever more unless addressed PDQ. Lack of time. Lack of money. Lack of trained staff. Ooops. This from what is meant to be a premier news organization with tens of thousands of trained bodies, funded by £3.5B of licence fee payers' money. Not blooming good enough!

There is now an all too prevalent notion that chunks of content can be used and abused to strip down and reassemble in the edit suite whatever you fancy for whatever your reasons, with truth, context and/or accuracy going out of the window so long as it makes for a 'good' story!

And they don't seem very interested in dealing with it at all, much less putting anything right, preferring to work on the (probably accurate) basis that if you leave it long enough it will all blow over.

Take this from the other day, where a possible ill-advised comment by a reporter was raised on the Newsnight blog. All I wanted, and at time of writing still want to know, is what she actually said:

1. At 08:33 PM on 06 Feb 2008, - Ms Kay made a clear statement in which she said 'thank god the Democrats have won Arkansas', she then tried to backtrack on her comment but the damage was done.

3. At 10:29 PM on 06 Feb 2008, - I didn't notice that last night and I have just re-watched it and didn't notice it then

9. At 05:34 PM on 07 Feb 2008, - May we have the 'purple box' official facts of what this reporter Ms. Kay did or did not say soon, please?

Any time you are ready. For the benefit of those who still like to weigh issues based on objective information.

There seem to be a bunch of 4th formers now in senior editorial positions more than happy to make snitty, silly rebuttals elsewhere, but on issues of cold, hard, key matters of fact they seem to suddenly scoot off elsewhere to throw their toys out of other prams.