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Former BBC Reporter Pulls Back the Curtain

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorApril 30, 2011 1:09 AM


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UPDATE: I just noticed this talk is a year old. Still, it's pretty fascinating. Anyone interested in how the journalistic sausage gets made in the UK, about the cozy relationship between British reporters and politicians, about how climate change gets covered in the media, should watch this revealing talk by Sarah Mukherjee, who until recently was a BBC environmental correspondent. Bishop Hill is making hay over some of her statements related to climategate and ties between NGO's and climate science. But it was her dishing about the journalism profession that caught my attention. At one point, referring to coverage of climate science, she mentions how difficult it is

trying to explain incredibly complex science in 50 words or 200 or 300 words. It doesn't really fit. And what you have to do is hope that the policymakers do get it enough and are sophisticated enough in order to understand it. And fortunately, in a large number of cases, they do understand it, but they understand the Daily Mail headline more...there's this panic [among politicians] about what the papers are going to say, and of course, depending on the mood or depending how slow a news day it is, you're going to get a headline that will completely and deliberately misunderstand the science--often.

This next anecdote is a beauty:

The number of times I was rung at 7 oclock in the morning, 'oh hi, it's the desk here, there's something about the environment on page 6 in the [Daily] mail. Could you do something?' 'Well, what is it?' 'Oh, I don't know, it's just something in the Mail.' That was it. That's all you had to know. It was in the Mail, therefore you had to do it. Despite the fact that you probably looked at the report and it was a load of nonsense, or the Mail had overwritten it. Most of my battles were over trying not to do pieces that had been covered wrongly by the tabloid press.

She then sighs and lets it rip:

This leads you to the conclusion that you have the political class and the media class, which are essentially the same thing. They all went to the same schools, they all went to the same places. They all know each other, have known each other since university days, or earlier...[they're] locked into some mutually destructive embrace. The politicians trust the media, because they think that they are in touch with normal people. I don't know how the hell they are, because they spend their whole time with the politicians. Therefore the politicians give the stories to the media and the media then reflect that back...And actually nobody is talking to normal people at all. Nobody. No politicians. No journalists.

Ouch. All 75 minutes (which includes an interesting Q & A with the audience) are well worth watching.

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