And another thing…


Ah, the old esprit de l’escalier – that sense of coming up with the perfect riposte when halfway down the stairs, clomping away from the slammed door after a row. Fortunately, it is only on the rarest of occasions that I have been thus afflicted – not because my brain is perpetually at a rolling boil of withering putdowns but because my life just isn’t operatic enough for rows. And certainly not at the top of staircases.

How-weva the sense of things left unsaid has been hovering around since my little trip to Brighton last Monday. Now, I DID talk about fact-checking, and the importance of reliable sources. I even took them on a quick canter through Time magazine’s fact-checking protocols (posh US publications are pretty much the most checked in the world. Or they were). But I felt I was sounding querulous and horribly antiquarian, a King Canute ordering back the Wikipedian waves.

If I were giving the talk today, fact-checking would take up about a third of my time. Of course, who cares what I think about the BBC? Who cares what MOST people think of the BBC? (Although I should say that the response to my scientific poll this morning – ‘Have any of you lost faith in the BBC over all this?’ as I gathered mugs for a tea run – was an instant and unanimous nope) but at the moment it’s a bit like listening to news editors denying they knew that their reporters were hacking phones.

Let us be clear. In my experience, when a reporter has a story, the editor’s first question is ‘Where did it come from?’ and second ‘How are you going to stand it up?’ I can only assume it’s the same in broadcasting, so whatever went wrong at Newsnight is baffling. Though I bet Phillip Schofield, after his fine audition for The Mikado‘s Lord High Executioner (‘I’ve got a little list/I’ve got a little list/ Of society offenders who might well be underground…’) is probably thanking his lucky stars that he no longer looks like the biggest div at the office. Not so fast, Phil. You spent ‘three minutes’ doing your research and then acted like it was evidence. Even the sofas looked embarrassed.


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