Monday, August 14, 2006

Looks like I'll be reporting from Bridgend instead of Beirut in the future.

UPDATE: "I hope the BBC's many foreign correspondents do not take her remarks lying down. I hope they defend their integrity and the values which brought them into journalism in the first place. Many of them often risk their lives for these values.

"Mary Fitzpatrick, by contrast, sits safely and highly-paid in front of a desk in London risking very little indeed, except perhaps her reputation for good sense, and attacking the values of the institution that she is supposed to serve."
Even the Daily Mail is sticking up for us. Whatever next?

UPDATE 2:
This email is going to all staff in BBC News

Dear colleague

Following the report in yesterday’s Observer, which was picked up by other papers today, I wanted to write to you to reassure you that, contrary to what is suggested in these reports, I hold the work of BBC News correspondents across the world in the highest possible regard.

I can appreciate, and very much regret, the concern that the article has caused and I wanted to set out the facts.

In a general interview about diversity on BBC Television there was a very brief reference to BBC News. In response to a question, I wanted to make a point - which is not new – that in a changing world we need to ensure that we reflect the changing nature of our audience. This may mean sometimes having a wider range of voices reporting from around the world. I believe this is happening in BBC News. What I emphatically do not believe is that this means that our present reporting team is not delivering this. Whilst I firmly believe that a deep understanding of the cultural background and issues surrounding a story is essential, I do not hold the view that this can only be delivered by, for example, a black reporter reporting from Africa. I do believe, however, we should, as we move forward, keep looking for that greater range of voices.

The reporting across BBC News outlets over the past few days amply demonstrates in my view the tremendous reporting strengths of BBC News. It is my job to say that in all areas of output we can always do a little better. I appreciate this is often a subtle point, and I very much regret was one missed in the slant the Observer chose to put on their story.

Do please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this in more detail.

With best wishes

Mary FitzPatrick
Editorial Executive, Diversity

UPDATE 3: Mary Fitzpatrick's salary is estimated at £90,000 a year.

3 Comments:

Blogger The Rev said...

If the ethnicity of a reporter is a hindrance to them doing the job in some regions, then I can see the validity of the idea, but on the whole it does strike me as political correctness not quite gone mad, but certainly political correctness contemplating eating its trousers and wearing a hat stand.

Perhaps the real issue is a financial one - employing a reporter who ethnically blends in with a specific region hints at the recruitment of regionally based reporters - cutting down on travel and accommodation expenses. No longer is just your ability to do the job going to be the main factor in your recruitment onto the freelance-based contract that will have you covering your own expenses for the privilege of reporting. By dressing it up as an ethnicity issue, maybe they figure that few people will challenge it, thereby allowing the purse strings to be tightened under the guise of ethnic diversity.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no racist. I'm in favour of ethnic diversity, but not based solely on the colour of your skin or the shape of the symbol you pray to. I'd rather see it based on the ability to do the job you're going for.

I think the telling sentence in the new article is "Speaking in her first interview in the newly-created role". To me this is the BBC saying "look, we're sensitive" and the new recruit doing what all new recruits do all over the world - making a big impression by trying to 'shake things up' right from the get-go.

How far will this correctness drive go in future? A policy of covering the Oscars by reporters who conform to a 'no uggos' policy? Issues concerning mental health to be represented by reporters with Alzheimers?

Maybe I'm just being cynical...

p.s. Where have you been, Stuart? We were getting worried!

11:58 AM  
Blogger Zorka said...

Until I understand more of this, I am extremely wary of this type of decision-making.
I am all for cultural diversity, God knows, I helped fight for racial equality in the sixties here in the US, but when you venture into the realm of journalism especially, you cannot sacrifice journalistic integrity for cultural hegemony. If those chosen have the credentials, then by all means, use them, but don't bring on reporters simply with the idea of making them "look like everyone" they are reporting on!

This smacks of things that happen in my country in media all the time. Please let's hope it doesn't begin to happen within the BBC.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a non-story. Mary Fitzpatrick says "Whilst I firmly believe that a deep understanding of the cultural background and issues surrounding a story is essential, I do not hold the view that this can only be delivered by, for example, a black reporter reporting from Africa. I do believe, however, we should, as we move forward, keep looking for that greater range of voices". Can anybody honestly argue with that?

If she is going to get that much resistance for stating the bleeding obvious about how the BBC needs to evolve then she is worth every penny of £90K pa.

4:36 PM  

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