Reporting Scotland’s lingering inadequacies in journalism

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?








4 thoughts on “Reporting Scotland’s lingering inadequacies in journalism

  1. tcrosbie20 July 5, 2019 / 7:01 am

    The quality of BBC journalism is disgracefully bad, is it by accident or by design, most people would agree with me when I say the latter.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Alasdair Macdonald July 5, 2019 / 10:16 am

    While I support changing the law to permit people to make rational and informed decisions to end their own lives when they feel that the pain and suffering has become unbearable, I think that you are right to use this instance to exemplify a trend in reporting by BBC Scotland News and Current Affairs to present single cases and invite people to generalise from them, particularly when the SG, SNP, Scotland, public services (except, of course, BBC Scotland), trade unions can be hinted at as being baaaaaad.

    There is a place for the ‘human interest’ story and I felt that the man and his wife presented their story well (probably I am displaying confirmation bias). However, in the interests of ‘balance’ there was a statement from a Christian group which opposes changes to legislation. This person was not questioned. There are arguments against allowing people to decide to end their own lives (arguments which I do not accept), but these arguments are not only ‘Christian’ arguments or arguments which are the ‘property’ of a particular religious group. However, rarely, are these non-religious arguments given air time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jock Haggis July 5, 2019 / 12:34 pm

    Did BBC Scotland put the “dour” in Scots in the per-devolution days? It was habitual watching in our house in the only one or two in-house tele days of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Every year during that time I had an annual commitment which took me away from home for a fortnight and I was released from the duty of watching it. I didn’t miss the daily dose of depression that it provided. I watch little now..just enough to check that the daily dose of depression of Scots is still being provided. It is 😦


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