Monday, 12 November 2012

Will the last reporter please switch the light off

If you have had any direct knowledge of a news report and then seen those reports then I would guess that you already know that reporters don't always get things right. Partly they get things wrong because they are human, partly because they are told the wrong information and partly because they have to sensationalise the story. So if reporters had to resign for getting things wrong then, to paraphrase a Sun headline, the last one resigning would have to switch the light off.

Sometimes human error may be so great that a resignation is justified, and maybe that is the case with the DG of the BBC but it seems to me that there are much bigger areas of concern. Steve Messham told the BBC’s Newsnight team that he was raped by a senior Tory politician while he was in care at the Bryn Estyn home in Wrexham. Let's presume that there is the slightest truth in his allegation even though Steve recognised that the name that was leaked was not the alleged aggressor. Steve must have got the idea that it was a senior Tory politician from somewhere, and there are reports that say the police themselves gave Steve the name. This name must have been burning inside him for months and years.

Then there was the police investigation which didn't put out the flames. Then there was a Newsnight investigation which didn't put out the flames.Nobody put him right. I am not excusing Newsnight as it is a pretty serious error, but they have interviewed a man who passionately accuses an unnamed individual but who remains calm enough to be interviewed.

I don't believe the stories that say Steve Messham is a totally unreliable witness. I thought there was some truth in his allegations when he said he was raped and before I saw his heartfelt apology I suspected that he had been paid to change his story. I don't hold this view now because I believe Steve told the truth. Abhorrent acts have taken place and I hope David Cameron's resolve that 'no stone would be left unturned in getting to the bottom of these appalling matters' will continue.

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