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Richard Sambrook: John Birt criticised ‘He Said She Said’ formula 34 years ago

Prompted by Jay Rosen’s recent critique of the ‘He Said She Said’ news formula, Richard Sambrook, director of BBC Global News, offers his own take on balanced reporting on his blog.

Sambrook ‘agrees with the thrust’ of Rosen’s argument, ‘but was left uncomfortable’ for several reasons, outlined in his post.

Most interesting, is Sambrook’s reference to a critique against the formulaic approach of British TV news, made 34 years ago by John Birt, later director-general of the BBC, and Peter Jay, a Times columnist and later economics editor of the BBC. They called it ‘bias against understanding’. Birt’s argument shaped his later strategy:

“In the late 80s, instead of interviewing those caught up in the news, specialist correspondents would be interviewed to explain the significance of an event or a report. It was highly successful, building the reputation of BBC News as a quality, intelligent, authoritative service. It’s a model which persists to this day.”

Richard Sambrook’s full post at this link…

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