Newsnight Replies Re Running Order Ruckus Over Ruth

There was consternation in many places over last week’s reporting by the BBC of Ruth Turner’s arrest. Many thought that Newsnight in particular messed up the priorities with a Michael Crick story on a Tory using the word “cripple” in an email as the lead item. Guido agreed and on Saturday emailed Newsnight’s editor Peter Barron:

Peter,

Could you give me an on the record quote concerning the relative priority given to these stories on Friday.

The lead story focused on an embarrassing email sent between two non-entity local Tory councillors. In other news, after nine minutes on this story, the next story was that PM’s aide was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in the loans for lordships investigation. This story was given three minutes.

Why were the stories prioritised in that order?

Do you think the un-pc email story was more important?

The reply came back this morning:

Guido,

On Newsnight we don’t necessarily stick to linear running orders which reflect the relative significance of stories in the same way that news bulletins tend to. The loans for peerages story was of course more significant, but there were other factors at play. We had committed Michael Crick to following David Cameron’s efforts to relaunch his campaign in the North. While covering that he came across the “cripple” email story, which was an exclusive and highly pertinent to the Conservatives’ attempts to portray themselves as a compassionate party of government. It followed and mirrored the biggest controversy and talking point of the week which concerned the use of un-PC language in Big Brother. The loans story had been reported in some detail on the 10 O’clock News and on Newsnight we considered that our version could not be substantially different given the information we had at that point. We therefore decided to lead off on our own original story and to run the loans story prominently in second place. You could actually argue that in terms of global significance it was our third story – about China and star wars – which was the most important of the three.
Guido gets the impression that they were committed to the Crick story, when Ruth got arrested they didn’t want to bin the Crick footage. A misjudgement. A nothing story, about a nobody versus the arrest of the PM’s aide? This could lead to a crisis of Watergate proportions and surely deserves serious treatment by the nation’s prime serious news show. What were they thinking?

UPDATE : Peter Barron blogs “I don’t rule out the possibility that it was simply a misjudgement.” Quite.



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