Yesterday as England reeled under the media exposure of a widespread sepsis scandal, Reporting Scotland, denied their own sepsis crisis, resorted once again to attempting to turn a single incident into something greater, something worse.
There is no wider phenomenon reported here. No campaign by multiple sufferers. No letter signed by twenty medics. It’s just one tragic case filling a, for them, tragic gap in their broadcast. The report lingers sadly and morbidly on faces. It does not even remotely fulfil the state broadcaster’s remit to inform or to educate. It does not satisfy their own editorial guideline to avoid reliance on single sources. It’s bad journalism and it’s a trend, a trend worth reporting:
In May 2019, we heard of how a change in the law of the age of criminal responsibility had allegedly hurt the family of a victim killed 30 years before, the only killing by a child in Scottish history. Only a cousin was available to speak. We did not hear, as we should, just how rare a killing by someone under 12 is and thus how little use it could be in framing legislation. Children under 12 do not kill but they do commit lesser crimes and currently find themselves scarred by that for the rest of their lives. Why did the report not consider the multitude of cases where the legislation will be a boon rather than scrabbling in the mud and gore, desperately to find the only case of murder by a child they can find to shock and upset us to no purposeful end?
In October 2018, another single death was lingered over as the relatives sobbed and was used to suggest a wider problem not apparent from any statistics. It was an awful, tragic, case. The parent’s anger and despair was understandable, but is it, on its own, news of the kind a public service broadcaster should headline and dwell on at some length? Leaving aside the fact that the case had still not yet been confirmed as suicide by a Fatal Accident Inquiry, the BBC Scotland report had time for the parents and other non-professionals to talk at length and to suggest that despite this being a single case, based entirely on comments made to the parents, by the victim and without any contextual evidence, the problem was systemic.
On September 26th 2018, Reporting Scotland fell further into the foul-smelling mire than even the Sun or the Daily Mail might go, with the story of the decapitation of a baby in childbirth. I found it hard to consider just typing that phrase but to want to dwell on it, to savour it and to exploit the grief-stricken mother, in the pretense that this is all about the rights of that mother, is nauseating. Of course, the case should be pursued with the authorities and, if necessary, with the support of politicians but to dramatise it in this way for public titillation, is beyond belief. Deaths in childbirth are, of course, falling and at an all-time low in Scotland so single case did not represent any wider informative trend.
Finally, though I could go back further, on September 12th 2018, at 06:27 and then 5 more times that morning, BBC Scotland headlined: ‘A woman who was sexually abused as a child [21 years ago] has criticised police and others for failing to stop a man abusing generations of girls.’ It was the lead story on the website too. There wasn’t enough evidence at the time, 21 years ago, so who fed BBC Scotland with this story and why, crucially, given the lack of evidence of any wider trend or problem, was it newsworthy?