The number of journalists reporting on the Chile miners rescue operation faced much criticism in the days that followed the dramatic rescue, in particular against the BBC after it was reported that a memo from BBC world editor Jon Williams indicated that the broadcaster’s spend could impact on its coverage of other major events.
But during a debrief organised by the BBC College of Journalism, Williams stood by his decision, according to a report by David Hayward, who runs the Journalism Programme for the college.
Jon Williams was absolutely convinced that it was the right thing to do. He called it the biggest single foreign story in the five years he’s been BBC World Editor. He was unapologetic about the way in which it was covered. If the BBC was going to be there, it needed to do it wholeheartedly, he said. Although he did say how relieved he was that the original estimates of the rescue attempt taking until Christmas proved to be wrong.
Tim Willcox said they had a huge advantage over the other news outlets. Because the BBC was there in force from an early stage, he was able to build up excellent relationships with the families, the rescue teams and the Chilean authorities. The fact that he was also able to conduct interviews in Spanish and English certainly helped too.