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Excessive coverage?

David Kermode | 16:51 UK time, Friday, 22 September 2006

Richard Hammond appears to be making a good recovery. His doctors are apparently "cautiously optimistic".

Breakfast logoWhen news of his accident broke on Wednesday night, details were sketchy. It had an, "oh god, that's awful" factor, and I was in doubt that it should lead Thursday morning's Breakfast.

Decisions over which story should get most prominence are often very difficult. Thursday morning's news agenda was relatively quiet and this story stood out to me, and the rest of the team working on the programme.

Was it the right lead? There's definitely a debate to be had. Quite a few viewers got in touch, either by email and text during the show, or by the more formal complaints procedure route, to suggest it was the wrong call.

Richard Hammond"Is there nothing more important going on in the world?" was one view. "The coverage was excessive," was the view of many others. One person even complained that the accident "was self inflicted and should not be news".

At the same time, we had a big response from people who wanted to relay their shock and pass on their best wishes for Richard's recovery. We use a panel of viewers to monitor which news stories have the most impact and which stories viewers want to know more about. The answer, on both counts, was 'Richard Hammond's accident'.

We don't always get the choice of lead story right and the clarity provided by hindsight is powerful. However, on this occasion, I would stick with our choice of lead. He is a well known and much loved presenter, he was attempting something extraordinary and, as we now know, there was a huge amount of interest in what happened and in his condition.

I share my thoughts on this not because I think they are necessarily particularly important (self important journalists annoy people) but because I think it's important to try to shed light on our decision-making process.

What's much more important is that he recovers - and there are clearly so many people out there who want to see him back on screen as soon as possible.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 06:56 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • Ben wrote:

I believe it was the correct choice. How people have said "Did you hear about Richard Hammond?" compared to the amount who wanted to discuss the Thailand coup.

This is a story that may not be the biggest event, but it certainly the most talked about, therefore I believe it should have lead.

The stats from BBC News Online clearly show the interest in this story, with that article being at the top constantly, far ahead others.

  • 2.
  • At 07:25 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • Clare Milner wrote:

I quite agree.

If there had been a major national or international event that should quite rightly have taken prominence. But Richard Hammond is a well known tv personality and there are many many people across the UK and beyond who want to be kept informed about the accident and his progress.

At a time when society worships Z list celebrities, how can people complain when the news covers the story of a talented journalist and presenter injured doing a highly skilled job?

It's understandable to hear that people are complaining that this is "not news" - as this is always the case.

However I think that given the huge number of comments posted on the BBC web site wishing Richard a speedy recovery shows the importance this news has to the British public and re-inforces the fact that, I believe, BBC news has made the right decision in it's coverage.

Needless to say I hope Richard recovers fully and soon.

  • 4.
  • At 10:05 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • Jamie Harris wrote:

Running with Hammond instead of stories of greater international significance would have been, in my opionion, be a bad decision.

However I firmly believe that leading with local or national stories is a sensible approach as they are closer to most people's day-to-day lives. Yes, events elsewhere in the world can have a dramatic impact on our lives, but it's often the local stories that are felt first so are the more 'important' news.

  • 5.
  • At 10:17 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • James wrote:

If you check the live stats on the BBC News website at the moment Richard is in the top ten most viewed stories in all continents except North America. As they've explained, it's a big show all over the place - even I watch the repeats on BBC World.

I think Richard rightly has many fans and everyone wishes him a speedy recovery.

If you go back over the blog posts and comments there's probably half a dozen cases of "excessive coverage" from the Labour leadership discussion to the Pakistan - England ball tampering.

  • 6.
  • At 10:41 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

We were discussing this very matter in the office today.

I am very fond of Richard Hammond and I wish him a full and speedy recovery. I am also very keen on cars and motor sport, having raced some in the past.

However, I feel that this story received too much coverage. Yes, it's a sad story, and has an emelent of the beloved 'British underdog' about it. But in terms of impact, importance and scale, there are many far more newsworthy things going on in the world at this time.

I suggested the military coup in Thailand as an example of a story which should be receiving more coverage.

Of the three other people in the office, two hadn't heard about this story, and one didn't know what a 'coo' was.

  • 7.
  • At 11:17 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • RAS wrote:

As someone who receives his news from the BBC website, there was MUCH too much coverage of this. The accident is a tragedy, but it certainly was not the main news of the day -- which it was on the site for rather a long time.

It seems to me that (naturally) the BBC has taken a keen interest in the welfare of one of its own. Query if the coverage would have been the same had Mr Hammond's programme not been airing on the Corporation's channels. I suspect not. It's important for editors not to fall into the trap of believing that what is big news for them is also big news for the world at large.

  • 8.
  • At 11:48 PM on 22 Sep 2006,
  • David Self wrote:

Get well Hamster….your family needs you….your country needs you. And a message to H&S: The reason we need and love these three maniacs is they provide a non homogenised view of life as we knew it before the state came and anaesthetised us……in the main, we do not copy or emulate them and those that do, would undertake acts of gross stupidity regardless….most of us have a high regard for life and our own safety and do not need you to dictate to us what, how, when and if….and if we disregard the basic tenets that govern our own safety, then that is our decision, our risk….we do not need endless blame seeking investigations and enquiries (costing huge amounts), we do not need anyone to be held accountable…..if you think that Richard Hammond got into a rocket powered vehicle without understanding the risks, without fully appreciating what the goodness he was up to, then you are mistaken….he knew only too well….he’s an intelligent man…well as intelligent as anyone wanting to strap himself onto a rocket that accelerates to 200 mph before we could draw breath could be…..

It was an accident…pure and simple…by all means find out what happened but DO NOT apportion blame and by virtue legislate more tightly. There is a law ignored by politicians and rule makers of all persuasions, it is the law of unintended consequences…..tie us down more tightly, cramp our natural human urges and we rebel, we fight back and by dint, push ourselves harder, further and more relentlessly than we would otherwise and thus endanger ourselves the more. Leave us to balance and govern our own lives and we, surprisingly, actually do quite a good job.

Thank you Top Gear for all your madness, we need you now more than ever…and get back at the wheel Hamster…you silly arse…!

  • 9.
  • At 12:49 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

Richard Hammond's accident has been big news all the way over here in New Zealand. One only has to look at the amount of money raised on Justgiving.com for the Yorkshire air ambulance service in the last couple of days to see that it was right for this story to have a high profile.

It seems like the whole world is wishing him a speedy recovery.

  • 10.
  • At 12:53 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Balance, what balance wrote:

I think the coverage was not excessive but comprehensive.

The BBC news team kept us updated with progress reports - considering that maybe millions of fans were hoping for the good news that he was going to be all right I think that was a good call.

What was the BBC supposed to do? Say oh... there was an accident and then not give us any more information?

  • 11.
  • At 12:53 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

Whilst it's a sad story and you'd wish Richard Hammond a speedy recovery it highlights how human beings feel more empathy for people they feel they know compared to people they don't.

Hundreds of thousands dead in Darfur, and a story that has slipped down the news agenda.

We have our priorites straight, right?

  • 12.
  • At 06:04 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Harry wrote:

I quite like Richard Hammond's personality, but there's a bloke up the road I quite like too. Whatever happens to him, the kids will still be in school on Monday - there'll be no national day of remembrance.

Of course just about any other story is more important and should be shown first, but "news" has always been of the type "Thousands killed in earthquake - no Britons hurt - now for a funny story about a puppy". We're all simple-minded like that.

To the extent that the story should be reported at all, it should concentrate on whether the BBC should put a totally unqualified enthusiast in a deadly situation purely for the puerile entertainment of motoring nerds.

The subject has been broached, but before any serious analysis and proper accusations can be levelled at the programme-makers it's been knocked on the head suspiciously quickly by the self-serving nature of the news reporters themselves. No-one likes to have their bosses potentially accused of manslaughter, after all. Maybe we need to see what kind of court case is raised by the insurers objecting to the level of compensation payment they have to make.

Because the people involved were insured, weren't they? Actually, I haven't heard anyone ask that question yet.

  • 13.
  • At 07:16 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • mark hereford wrote:

I would be very obliged to be kept informed as to Richard Hammond, recovery, for a very well know, liked, and very cheerful personality, and I do consider its news.

Please keep us informed about his recovery.

  • 14.
  • At 08:31 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • John wrote:

Journalists should report news not make it. That used to be a golden rule in journalism. I had not heard of this reporter before and his accident, sad though it is, is nothing compared with world news that we were denied by the BBC

  • 15.
  • At 08:58 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Gary Finnigan wrote:

It's as newsworthy as someone's pig escaped on the M6, or some new planet was found a trillion light years away.
If someone is 'in your life' as Richard Hammond is, then it's newsworthy to me, whereas a pig escaping on the M6 has no impact on my life so I don't really care.

Keep up the good news reporting BBC!

  • 16.
  • At 09:00 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • alan rose wrote:

As for 'well-known', my immediate reaction was 'Richard, who?'. Yes, no doubt you at the BBC were upset at the news of a collegue's accident. But all day? every day?.Top news story! Get a life!

  • 17.
  • At 10:15 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Alex wrote:

I disagree with those that say this had too much coverage.

Richard is a very popular guy and ultimately the most important news is that which actually affects people, not that which is happening thousands of miles away and has no impact on their daily lives.

The stats on the website don't lie - most people were concerned about Hammond's condition, so that is what should lead.

What is not so good is certain people using this to once again fuel the anti-top gear bandwagon. not only is that inappropriate, it also completely disregards the fact that the show, as represented in part by Hammond, is enjoyed by millions of people.

  • 18.
  • At 10:31 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Steve Webb wrote:

I am not happy that the BBC has put off showing top gear's best of and say that the new show might not even be broadcast. Is this nanny beeb gone mad, Hamster knew what he was doing and his recovery has made all his fans smile with delight but the idea of shelving the best show on the corporation is not the response that fans of Richard and the show want of expect...

  • 19.
  • At 10:36 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • simon cuthbert wrote:

I think what this does show is that there is a greater depth of feeling from people who care about people who mean quite a lot to them.
Hammond, May and Clarkson have become everyone's naughty big brothers and as such have created a place in hearts and minds across not just the UK but also across the world.
To be brutally honest I'm sure another story about another politician or a phoney war in the middle east doesn't rate on anyone's radar when a bloke like Hammond lays ill in hospital.
I live in Singapore and can tell you, there is more " water cooler talk " about Hammond than there is the IMF or Tony Blair.

  • 20.
  • At 10:39 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • G Andrew Holmes wrote:

Whereas I believe that the problems in Gaza (oddly enough: not covered), Darfur (again, not a peep) and Thailand are 'more important' in the grand scheme of things.

...But I don't believe this is an 'either/or' argument. There's enough room for all of these subjects to be covered. Especially if you get rid of the Sport news to make a bit of space...

In fact, why doesn't the BBC divvie up different news items into different programmes? We could have one devoted to 'Celebs', one devoted to Sport, and one to Political and Current Affairs?

Alex: the stats on the website show that the most popular stories are generally the more tabloid-style, human interest stories. Do you really want a media which perpetually dumbs down, focusses and follows solely what people look at? Most people (myself included) don't know what they don't know, and so the stuff that's being looked at, or the stuff that's 'popular' (Pope gets stuck in toilet) should definitely not be allowed to dictate the News Agenda!

  • 21.
  • At 10:54 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

This is newsworthy because he is a presenter of Top Gear and in the UK Top Gear is at the centre of the discussion about cars, individual choice, risk, speed, the nanny state, transport and the environment. Hence I believe the accident is newsworthy from that perspective. The coverage can be justified if it contributes to this important debate. A debate that Richard Hammond has made an important contribution to. How many other people were hurt this week due to excessive speed? I agree with those who believe he knew and accepted these risks. He is an excellent and charismatic presenter, I wish him a fast and full recovery.

  • 22.
  • At 11:15 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Matt wrote:

in relation to post #16 - I see news every day where I think 'who!' but by reading futher I find out who.

Look at the amount of comments left, support given and wellwishers who have got involved in this story.

This is news, not over published and it is giving the public what they want to read. Yes we want to hear on his condition when it changes - he is a much loved TV presenter doing something to entertain us. And it does!

  • 23.
  • At 11:34 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • David Bodycombe wrote:

I believe it is news, as it's an unusual event featuring a household name. It also opens a wider debate on how far TV programmes should go.

What surprises me is how many other stories of very minor significance still get full-length articles on the BBC site: for example, if 15 people ring to complain about a controversial Channel 4 drama.

  • 24.
  • At 11:36 AM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Doug wrote:

In the context of the UK, for a BBC presenter of a long running BBC TV series, it HAD to be a headline, and it deserves the coverage, particularly given the huge interest.

I'm certain there are more poeple concerned with Richard than with the political bickering between the Brown and Blair camps which dominated news coverage so recently.

In the big picture, I'm sure the story "doesn't matter" any more than any other celebrity news, but the BBC is certainly the place I'd expect to hear about such a well liked personality.

  • 25.
  • At 12:09 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Aniza D wrote:

One of the main functions of the media is to inform. I first read of the accident on the Sydney Morning Herald's website, then hurried over to the BBC website for confirmation. I normally check BBC a couple of times a day, but since the Hamster's accident, I've been checking every couple of hours, to read if there's been any change in his condition. I'm in Sydney, Australia, by the way, so it's not so easy to pick up the phone and call Leeds Infirmary to ask how Richard Hammond's doing.

Your coverage on this matter is absolutely crucial to everyone who follows Top Gear and who genuinely cares what happens to the Hamster. John said journalists should be reporting the news, not making it; that's what the Hamster was trying to do. I'm sure he would have preferred not to have crashed and ended up in hospital and worrying his wife and two little girls, and all his fans across the world.

Three weeks ago, I was having lunch in Sydney when I got a phonecall from a friend in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, telling me that Steve Irwin was dead. I refused to believe it, until he told me he'd read the report on the BBC. A convoluted way of news travelling, but by no means a Chinese whisper - not when the BBC is involved.

Yes, there was other news two days ago. Yes, there was a coup in Thailand. I read that news on four different news websites in four different countries -- the BBC could have put it in an obscure corner and we would still have found it and read it. But, if not the BBC frontpage for the Hamster, where?

Thank you, BBC. You got it absolutely right!


  • 26.
  • At 01:04 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Alan wrote:

I am much more interested in Richard Hammond, a person who has many admirable qualities and is generally well liked than the posturing and antics of leading politicians, who have few admirable qualities and are in general, disliked.

Good decision to continue to keep us all informed. I hope that this turns out to be a good news story, there aren't many.

  • 27.
  • At 01:30 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Richard Morris wrote:

For all the coverage there was no film of the crash. Why not? You have shown the Campbell crash often enough.

  • 28.
  • At 02:49 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Kevin wrote:

News of Richard Hammond's accident came as a shock and maybe should not have been headline news, but at the same time I think most are fed up hearing about Blair, Bush, the war in "Eyeraq" and Afghanistan and the boring, inane political tosh coming from the Brighton conference. And whoopee, guess what, it's the turn of the Tories next.

Richard Hammond's accident occured because of his job, it was a work related accident. Even those people with the most seemingly safe jobs can be severely injured or paralysed through a work related accident. The risk factor aspect of his job does not come into it for me unlike it seems to with some people. I do not have TV, so I have never seen Richard Hammond but I know of him through reading James May's Motoring column in the Telegraph. His accident was truly terrible, and yet out of this, my local Yorkshire Air Ambulance who struggle to raise urgently needed funds, appealing for donations all the time and not really getting anywhere have recieved to date over £56,000 directly because of this. This is utterly phenomenal and goes to show that whatever people think of the coverage, (and I have admired the BBC News website coverage of this,) the Yorkshire Air Ambulance will continue to save the lives of others desperately in peril. And for that I am so very grateful.

  • 30.
  • At 03:43 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Daniel wrote:

To all those who cry "Richard Hammond? Shut up, no-one cares!" - please shut up, no-one cares. There's been no less coverage of anything else. Or there hadn't, until your relentless moaning spawned hours of mind-numbing debate about whether Richard Hammond makes appropriate headline news.

I agree that there are far more important things happening right now. So why not go and discuss those?

  • 31.
  • At 04:38 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • garypowell wrote:

The BBC has enough public money to report on just about every important happening on the entire planet and beyond, if it wished. It currently employs over 3000 reporters.

A short visit to BBC online tells us that the BBC are very well aware of far far more world and national news then the BBC THINKS is important enough to tell the greater public about.

The BBC could and should be ONLY a public news and imformation service.

However it chooses to be a covert populist political organisation determined to maintain a country where its government "services" remain essential to the election and future survival of any British government.

The BBC actively messes in national and international party politics.

The BBC constantly displays its unreserved hatred of all things American along with their twice democratically elected Republican president. British Tories are treated like an unpopular contageous disease.

With this vast expense and commitment to the BBCs own survival and its own imperialist aims, we should be happy it has any cash or energy left to report on Richard Hammond at all.

I like Richard Hammond one of the very few real human beings still working for the BBC.

  • 32.
  • At 05:33 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Michael wrote:

I think that there's another reason for there being a lot of coverage. The anti-Top Gear, anti-motoring groups will jump on this as a reason to end the show (and more) if Richard fails to make a full recovery.

I think there are many figures waiting in the wings to use this story to their own ends, whether it's 'protecting us from risk' or 'ridding us of evil cars'.

  • 33.
  • At 05:36 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Phil Howard wrote:

The beauty of the universe is that in the most mundane object, all knowledge can be found.

Hyperbole, I know. But this story, by virtue of dividing opinion, reveals much about society, public consciousness and perceived morality.

On one side of the argument, news is supposed to be new information which is 'important'. To some, clearly, the antics of a reporter they've never heard of is not as important as the state of the third world or a hundred other issues. On the other side, this man has entertained many, and become a part of many people's lives. Political wranglings, rightly or wrongly, haven't.

This brings up arguments about whether the BBC has a moral duty to cover stories people should be concerned about, as that will reinforce their importance and prevent the degeneration of society towards amorality. Socialism and capitalism enter the debate at this point, along with religion, ethics and the license fee.

The story has apparently been very helpful for the area's local emergency services' funding, which is a noble result and inspires a bit of a warm, fuzzy feeling about the British (and other) public.

It has revealed that New Zealanders also watch the program, and that unless something of note happens in a war-torn region it will continue to be ignored. It highlights the routine nature of reporting in today's media.

I have become more aware of my journalistic leanings, and my own expectations of the news, and of people.

So the story has shown us what we think about ourselves - note the quantity of remarks about society or groups of people as a result of the issues. The story has shown us our opinions about news, and how different they are to other people's. The story has highlighted that news, like politics, is local. I'm sure some people have gone to find out how rockets work, facts about land speed records, and details of Mr Hammond's life. I'm sure if you look closely enough, you can see all of society here, in the mumbled comments as people read the headlines.

Who knows what we would learn if the story had been a different one?

  • 34.
  • At 06:35 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Mark H wrote:

This sad accident and the recent sad death of Steve Irwin are of great interest to anyone who enjoys these full of life personalities on our TV screen and in our lives.

Considering the ludicrous amount of coverage given to people like Kate Moss or Tom Cruise and their personal problems in recent years, I can't imagine the world being any worse if people like that disappeared from our TV screens. However people who are so passionate about life (I'd bet my house that both Steve and Hamster would have done their jobs for a pittance rather than sit behind a desk for a fortune) highlight what is good about people and life.

Best wishes to the Hamster family. I hope your zest for life isn't dimmed by this unfortunate incident.

  • 35.
  • At 06:56 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Tache Kent wrote:

I don't suppose that the Hampster's crash is real news but then was Beckham's latest hairstyle ever newsworthy?

  • 36.
  • At 06:57 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Tony Maggs wrote:

This decision surely goes to the heart of the question: what kind of news reporting does the BBC do?

Clearly, there is a lot of interest in this story, one which has a huge resonance coming in the aftermath of the death of Steve Irwin (will Hammond be our Irwin?) and huge human interest content (we love him and care about him) - but pretty well zero implications. In other words, it is just gossip - a great story, but a great tabloid story.

There is no real reason for having a licence-fee subsidised tabloid news service (they can and do make money in the free market), and I am sorry to say that free market tabloid news services are far more exciting than the staid old BBC. So I'd lead with something that those of us who turn to you for stories that have implications are interested in - and leave this sort of stuff to other people. It is not as though it is not going to be covered if you don't cover it, now, is it?

  • 37.
  • At 07:58 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Panos Boletis wrote:

I totally agree with the choice to have so prominent coverage of Richard's accident.

What I do dissagree with is the line chosen by the BBC to stop screening TOP GEAR.

I think it is disgraceful that the directors or editors behind the decision have decided to cover themselves just in case the H&S and PC crowd start a campaign against what is the most entertaining, innovative and downright excellent programme on BBC. Naturally the programme appeals to our need for escapism but it is miles better than the sanitised escapism the various reality shows provided by all channels including the beep.

  • 38.
  • At 08:04 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • stuart richards wrote:

It has every right to have the coverage given to it so far, because of his down to earth, enthusiastic personality which most people can relate to! He has up till now given my kids a healthy interest in the sciences which the schools have not managed as yet, and the fun he along with jeremy and james bring to topgear make it a must watch program!

Yes I know that they enjoy fast cars etc, and they have been slated for this aspect of top gear - BUT with this terrible accident being so well reported, it helps bring home the other side of speed and power - which more often than not CAN and DOES result in death! Keep on updating us all! and good health Hamster!

  • 39.
  • At 08:24 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Phillipa wrote:

Wha n earth is wrong with all these people who are complaining about Richard's crash being an important piece of news??? At the end of the day you can select what news you read cant you.. like anyone who reads the papers, or looks at the websites, you skim over the news you dont wish to read.. cant that be the case with this too? What is wrong with just looking at the next piece of news eh?

I think it was the right call to keep the public updated with Richards progress, afterall he is a figure head to many, and a well respected presenter who has given a lot to the UK and overseas community. The news of him accident and recovery in no was downplays the seriousness of other incidents across the globe, one 'story' is never better or worse than any other when human life in any shape, form, quantity, race etc is threatened. So what should it matter that his story for the time being is in slightly larger letters than the rest? Is the real problem the fact that you think other stories are more serious, or because you think your views are better than anyone elses in terms of important news?

Let the reporters do their job... and report news, and we as the public.. have the choice what to read of it. If you dont like it.. go do a course, become a journalist.. and work your way up for years and years to get to the point where you can choose what is classed as news or not.

I am glad that the news is continuing of is progress.. yes there are some awful stories of bad things happening in places, but Richards progress in heartwarming, and good news that in the face of a severe accident people can have hope of survival. And that hope is what is making this story outstanding. In my opinion.

Blessings to Hamster and his family and friends, and thank you to those reporters and whoever is in charge for keeping us updated with positive news! xx

I definitely think that it was correct to have the Richard Hammond story as a news headline, and you obviously made the correct decision because all other news channels seemed to do the same. The story was also covered on Yahoo! Australia.

From what I was taught, news stories are promoted in accordance with what it is perseived the audience wants and I definitely think the audience wanted to know about Richard.

This isn't only because he is a very popular BBC presenter, but also because of the sheer scale of his accident.

If he had been travelling at 70 and crashed, I don't think it would have got as much attention. However, the instant I head the words "TV presenter", "180 miles per hour" and "Top Gear" I was asking those who'd actually heard it properly what it was...

The speed was then updated to 280 mph and later "maybe 300 mph" I was utterly gobsmacked. Purely because he was still alive and had made it to the hospital - seemingly alive.

What probably also increased the audiences want to know more information was the time that it happened. I first heard the news in a bullitin between a program over on ITV on Wednesday night, but they didn't provide details - don't suppose they had that many at this point.
This instantly wanted people to know what was happening, was he going to live, or would we wake up the dreadful knews that he'd passed away?
I'm sure a lot of people who knew the news on Wednesday woke up wondering what the news was on Richard.

It was also ironic that he is known as the little one or 'Hamster' from Top Gear and he's now in hospital with a life threatening condition after a car crash...

I'm glad Richard was given a headline, if anything it has helped the cause of Yorkshire Air Ambulance and it was after all he is a BBC presenter - and had all the other channels covered it as a main story and you hadn't, then it would have looked quite heartless on the beebs part.

  • 41.
  • At 09:50 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Stu in France wrote:

Sad that anyone is injured, but I have never heard of this guy till a few days ago - there are more important things going on in the world that deserve more coverage than this

I think !!!!

  • 42.
  • At 10:26 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Whilst you were toying with the non-story of no one yet knowing how complete would be the recovery of the most cuddly presenter of the most foolishly macho programme on BBC television, the butt of all their jokes, nicknamed Hamster, an aspect you missed was something that must be worrying quite a lot of us NHS customers - why he had to be airlifted some 30 miles to a university hospital in Leeds, when there is a large modern hospital in York they must have flown over, serving a vast area of East and North Yorkshire, only minutes away by road from the site of the accident in Elvington.

All this emphasis on air ambulance and stuff raises rather newsworthy issues for people everywhere in the UK.

  • 43.
  • At 10:58 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Robin wrote:

I would like to start by sending my wishes to Richard Hammond and hhis family in hopeing for a speedy recovery. Rightly or wrongly the news led with the story Richard Hammond had been injured in a car crash and yet people here belive this did not make for the lead story of the news. The story was covered by every channel and mostly it was the top story I will not get into the poltics of whether or not this was right will be a debate that will rage for a while. Richard Hammond has prved himself as a presenter on many different formats and his funny easing going attitude to life appeals to both men and women of all ages. At the moment the news has become very stagnent with most channels relying on Iraq or Tony Blair to lead it which has now become stale. I am not longer intrested in what Blair and Brown have to say and I find it quite depressing that if it's not poltics it's Iraq and how yet another solider was killed, yet the editors keep putting themselfs in a position where by it's the only thing they show. Richard Hammond has made certain the motoring is here for the future and made us all more aware of the dangerous cars we live around.

To Hamster Get Well Soon!!!

  • 44.
  • At 11:11 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • David wrote:

Of course this is not news. This is just the BBC feeding off itself - reporting a (lamentable) event that happens to one of its presenters rather than, say, the 5? 10? deaths on the roads this weekend, let alone the 100? 200? serious injuries.

  • 45.
  • At 11:25 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Trevor Mensah wrote:

I feel it was entirely appropriate to air this story over others on that day. I just sincerely hope this debate does not spiral into a Top Gear bashing exercise. Top Gear is so very popular because it does not following the boring 'politically correct' way on every single controversial issue.

The team say or do things that everyone thinks or has an opinion on themselves in their own mind, it is a great formula and the viewing figures speak for themselves. A sanitised version of Top Gear would 'kill' the program dead, what would be the point in that?

It provokes people to question policies like the current governments draconian and fanatical 'reverse ATM tax' speed cameras. At the same time it does so in a light hearted entertainment kind of way that everyone can relate to.

I am a huge fan of Mr. Clarkson and his team, they together they make motoring an entertainment, not some geeky review of boring overpriced products spoon fed to us by the motor industry in a clinical way. No thanks. It should be understood that risks are part of everyday life, if it turns out that it was a burst tyre that caused the accident, so what? Every time you get on a plane, train or into a car you have an element of risk associated with it. Richard knew the risks of stepping inside a DRAG racer. It was his freedom choice and it should continue to be so.

The nanny state that the UK has become under the Labour party has already overstepped the line on many issues of personal freedom and choice. I and many others rebel against the idea that 'everything' in life should be sanitized and risk free. Its ridiculous, human nature positively demands that risk be taken by individuals, its part of our DNA. Without risk we would have very sad and unrewarding life. Provided those risks are known and calculable they should be up to the individual to make, not the state. This is why the concept of German autobahn's appeal to so many enthusiasts.

Long live Top Gear!

PS. And get well soon Hammond!

  • 46.
  • At 12:05 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • wayne wrote:

Top Gear is a wonderful anomolie, almost alone in standing firm against the twin powers of corporate might (car makers in this case) and ridiculous health and safety policies that are imposed on us these days. The programme sticks two fingers up at both of them, and that is why it is the best show on TV bar none, at least in Australia where I live. The interest in Richard Hammond's accident is sky high because he represents Top Gear, because he has become a lovable figure, and because he was attempting a peculiarly British feat, trying to beat an obscure record for no good purpose. Putting him on first was the right choice.

  • 47.
  • At 12:15 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Rob K wrote:

When someone, who is as popular a presenter as Richard Hammond is, goes through what he has gone through, then yes, i would say it is the right lead. If anything can come from it, it has helped us to think about something more close to home. The potential loss of a Husband and father is something we can all relate to, and the sadness it brings
for the sake of his family can only serve to make us think of our own families. I for one was deeply saddened, my children watch his Braniac programme and when my daughter found out what had happened to him, she was in floods of tears. so yes, it is a lead Story, in much the same way as John Peel's death was.

Look at the "most read" stats for this week.

From what I've seen, each Hammond story has been top of every chart.

That tells you all you need to know.

  • 49.
  • At 01:18 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Dave Tatt wrote:

Yes i agree that the coverage wasnt right. Matter of fact as a volunteer motorsport Rescue chief i was appallled at the incorrect reports given.Richard was rescued by an independant team. Maybe not volunteers like we are but still Respect.
I have some political views about the Yorks Air Ambulance. As reported "They did not rescue Richard" He was was taken out by the team on site.I have no objections as to the donation that has been implied.But it makes out that Local emergency services have done all the hard work and now reap the benifits. Had it been my crew i would have been mortified at the report and insulted by the donation to the service that really had no involvement with the initial incident. You may have wanted to make it sound good. But thats not the point. Had it been some well known voluntary/independanrt service would you have reported the same.. FACTS thats what people want to hear NOT Headlines.

Dave Tatt WWW.Pennine-Rescue.co.uk

  • 50.
  • At 01:30 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • andrew d wrote:

I generally only get my news online and have not seen any news websites that had the story about Hammond as it's leading story. I don't feel the coverage the story has received here in Australia has been out of proportion to the stature and popularity of Richard Hammond.

As a good indication of Hammond's extraordinary popularity around the world, the Sydney Morning Herald website has listed articles about Hammond as the number 1 most read article every day since the accident.

I think one of the reasons for the incredible popularity of Top Gear (it has been for some time the most downloaded TV show in the internet) and the incredible outpouring of concern for Hammond is quite simply that Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May are three of the most "real" people on TV in the world today. I can't think of any show with more honest, down to earth presenters. We see more of ourselves in people like Hammond than we do in vacuous celebrities like Tom Cruise and his ilk. If Tom Cruise were to buy a 100,000 pound car we would think him a bit of a pratt, when Jeremy buys we one we cheer him on.

  • 51.
  • At 03:08 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • David wrote:

News is a mixture of what is important (to the world) and what is interesting (to us). Getting the mix right is difficult. Richard Hammond’s accident was one of the most popular news stories on the web sites of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age. Large numbers of Australians went to the BBC web site to find out how he was doing, hoping fervently that he did not share the fate of Steve Irwin and Peter Brock. The BBC gave us the information we needed. 'nough said.

  • 52.
  • At 07:12 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Alan wrote:

Here in Poland Top Gear is a highly rated programme. The presenters are well known. I doubt if any Poles could name any other British personality. Great programme it is always good for a good belly laugh! I hope that Richard recovers okay and that Top Gear goes on to even more motoring escapades. I still see that rocket propelled Mini tearing down the ski jump slope. BBC got it right in it's coverage of the accident and Richards progress. Far better than listening to the likes of Blair/Brown Zzzzzz

  • 53.
  • At 09:14 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Robert wrote:

I'm very sorry about what happened to him. As I would be about anyone who was involved in an accident.

But the Media section of the Independent newspaper's website has no less than five stories about this.

It is total hysteria, as was the death of Steve Irwin.

Yes it does seem that this is the type of news that people want. I really despair of people in this country. They are morons.

In response to comment #11:

There's a reason for this, it's called 'Tragic Flaw'.

Tragic Flaw expresses that we will automatically sympathise/empathise with the plight of those nearest to us (both in a geographical and emotional sense). It's similar to trying to quantify something-we can quantify ten apples, for instance, but we can not quantify ten billion. Likewise, we can empathise to a news story pertaining to someone in the national conscious (such as Richard Hammond), someone in the public eye, someone from our own country, or someone we know because we can relate to them.

We find it more difficult to relate to stories that have no immediate connection to us. Thus, we find it more difficult to relate to the problems in the Dafur, or other tragedies that happen in different countries.

(Tsunami aside, as there were Britons killed in this tragedy, so therefore we could 'find a link' to it)

  • 55.
  • At 02:44 PM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Balance, what balance wrote:

"Whereas I believe that the problems in Gaza (oddly enough: not covered), Darfur (again, not a peep) and Thailand are 'more important' in the grand scheme of things."

I agree that in the grand scheme of things they are probably more important, however unless there is something new to report then should they be headline news everyday?

The Richard Hammond story is getting so much coverage because it is changing more frequently.

  • 56.
  • At 04:24 PM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Tony Maggs wrote:

This decision surely goes to the heart of the question: what kind of news reporting does the BBC do?

Clearly, there is a lot of interest in this story, one which has a huge resonance coming in the aftermath of the death of Steve Irwin (will Hammond be our Irwin?) and huge human interest content (we love him and care about him) - but pretty well zero implications. In other words, it is just gossip - a great story, but a great tabloid story.

There is no real reason for having a licence-fee subsidised tabloid news service (they can and do make money in the free market), and I am sorry to say that free market tabloid news services are far more exciting than the staid old BBC. So I'd lead with something that those of us who turn to you for stories that have implications are interested in - and leave this sort of stuff to other people. It is not as though it is not going to be covered if you don't cover it, now, is it?

  • 57.
  • At 08:02 PM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Chris F J Cyrnik wrote:

I'm sorry to have to say that I'm a little annoyed at the news coverage of Richard Hammond's accident. Why?

Well we were told originally that Richard had 'severe head injuries' and that he had also suffered a 'significant brain injury', but now we hear that he has been sitting-up in bed and joking about the flowerers that have been sent to him. How anyone with such injuries can recover so amazingly is beyond me. Perhaps he had not suffered such severe injuries in the first place.

Richard was wearing a crash-helmet, he was strapped in, and had an anti-roll cage above his head. So what head injuries did he then suffer. I do think that exagerating this sort of incident because of someones' celebrity status is wrong.

  • 58.
  • At 09:22 PM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Charlene Vickers wrote:

My concern is that the BBC has been silent with respect to the lack of care and common sense which seem to be behind both Hammond's accident and Irwin's death. I can understand that a reporter might not want to speak bad of the dead (or the seriously injured), but I can't see why it's not good form to discuss why their actions were foolish and dangerous in the extreme. The BBC is in the business of news and commentary, not in the business of protecting readers and viewers from dissenting opinions or reasoned commentary.

  • 59.
  • At 10:12 AM on 25 Sep 2006,
  • Mike wrote:

The BBC, as an organisation funded by the licence, has an obligation to cater to the whole general public, not just the highbrow. The online news and the major TV news broadcasts should also cater to that range of interest.

Given the level of interest shown in Richard Hammond's accident, it appears the BBC have got that right - and arguably, helped the Yorkshire Air Ambulance to the tune of an extra £130,000.

  • 60.
  • At 12:54 PM on 25 Sep 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

Kevin wrote:

"News of Richard Hammond's accident came as a shock and maybe should not have been headline news, but at the same time I think most are fed up hearing about Blair, Bush, the war in "Eyeraq" and Afghanistan.."

Yeah, hundreds of people dying everyday as a result of our intervention is Iraq is 'boring'. Maybe it says more about you than it does about the importance of the story?

  • 61.
  • At 04:02 PM on 25 Sep 2006,
  • johan wrote:

The Beeb did just fine with the coverage of Hammond's accident. The Beeb doesn't just represent the intellectual "purist" view of what's important, but also popular culture, and the lads on Top Gear are a large part of this. He is one of your own, and people were hugely interested - just look at your site stats for the day and you'll see people wanted to know. And where better to go than the Beeb.

The thing which surprises me the most is the amount of coverage over the BBC in regards to this incident.

I'm sure that Hammond will say that if he had the chance to drive one again he would. Any car enthusiast would love to try something like that. Its just another risk he was prepared to do in something he loved... a car.

  • 63.
  • At 06:20 PM on 25 Sep 2006,
  • Humperdinck Jackman wrote:

A 100% correct decision. Top Gear is one of the most talked about programes on television today, and the team are respected world wide.

I certainly hope that the impact of the accident will make the BBC deliver two things:

1. to create more quality entertainment programming of such a high calibre.

2. To quash the suggestion that Top Gear might be profoundly altered or even cancelled.

Come on BBC - LISTEN to the public! We WANT our Top Gear team back on the air. Quickly. (please).

  • 64.
  • At 09:07 PM on 25 Sep 2006,
  • Mark Perryman wrote:

Don't use this accident as an excuse to crush debate about whether a program like Top Gear should be shown. I was very shocked to hear of the accident and interested in the coverage, but I have never watched Top Gear and don't intend to start.
Don't confuse interest in Richard's recovery with support for Top Gear.

  • 65.
  • At 07:05 PM on 26 Sep 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

I hope that Richard Hammond gets a lot more publicity.
When he is completely fit again. I hope that he will go on TV and make clear that he would not have survived if he had not been securely fastened into his seat.
There are still far too many people not using seat belts in the fond hope that their luck will last for ever. It won't.


  • 66.
  • At 04:15 AM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Andrew Baczkowski wrote:

Richards plight as a lead story can be justified in the light that beyond the tragedy there was a positive reaction. West Yorkshire can now afford a new helicopter... Highlighting a tragedy might seem to be sensationalist journalism but when this happens it's nice to know that editors sometimes get it right..

  • 67.
  • At 09:57 PM on 27 Sep 2006,
  • Mike wrote:

The BBC over comments things and Lady Diana's death was the worst ever. It's just news.

  • 68.
  • At 08:26 AM on 29 Sep 2006,
  • Christine Veasey-Connolly wrote:

I wish to join those who have said that the coverage of Richard Hammond's accident was at the correct level.

There was no NEW news that day and he is extremely popular, including in my household.

As previously pointed out this was not instead of international news, some of which certainly drops out of coverage too quickly.

It's reasonable to give major coverage to someone so well-liked, someone viewers of his programmes feel (however irrationally) that they know.

It's also good to have news that makes it clear that good precautions have save his life and to see that someone can recover well. Some here may have thought him foolhardy, I prefer brave.

Top Gear is a highly popular programme across the world. It's simply fun to watch Hammond,May and even Clarkson (despite his rather irrational rants) do things I would love to do in my fantasies but know I never will and mess around like the brothers I never had. It doesn't mean I'm going to race down the hill outside my house at 200 mph!

I have every good wish for Richard Hammond and hope for more news of his recovery. Not least because it will be an education for many about brain injury.

  • 69.
  • At 08:09 AM on 30 Sep 2006,
  • John Buck wrote:

I have just seen David Kermode on News 24. It appeared to me that whatever criticism as Editor he receives, his decision is ALWAYS right, in other words he can't take criticism.

Let's face it the only reason why this Richard Hammond person has 'enormous interest' is because of the ridiculous adulation from all companies that have a vested interest. Such as leave your message for him ONLINE? He isn't the Princess of Wales and yet you would think he was at least on par.

I had never heard of him until this - and Kermode tells me today with Snoddy that it was because he was attempting a land speed record - and yet I have heard on many BBC programmes on how he WASN'T attempting a land speed record.

I am totally confused by all of this - and the tabloids are just as bad.

Best to listen to Radio 4 perhaps....

  • 70.
  • At 02:47 PM on 01 Oct 2006,
  • Paul Munds wrote:

For Richard Hammond read Mike Bushell. Both "look at me - ain't I mad" types who use television to bolster their own boy-racer egos. The only difference between the two.......Hammond crashed and Bushell didn't.....this time.
Yeeeehaaaa! Look at me, ain't I mad.
Yobbish burks both.
Paul Munds

  • 71.
  • At 06:36 AM on 03 Oct 2006,
  • James McCann wrote:

I have never seen Top Gear and have never until now heard of Hammond. But I can see from all the commentary here that the BBC's institutional culture, or institutional memory, or tradition, or whatever you call the extension of permanent values from one generation to another, has reached a breaking point; and that the Trustees, or whoever they are that are responsible for the organization, ought to get together and do their job, which (aside from raising money) is to define the mission and the direction of the corporation, and make that fit into English society, culture and so on. Of course if the editors and other flunkies think they can paper over this disastrous crack in the teacup (if you know what I mean) they had better go ahead and do it; don't think nobody is watching, though, because "BBC" still means a great deal out here in the sticks even if it's just a job in London.

  • 72.
  • At 02:12 AM on 04 Oct 2006,
  • KATIE ROWELL wrote:

I THINK THESE PEOPLE WHO STATE THEY DONT KNOW WHO RICHARD IS ARE THEMSELVES D OR E LISTS AND JEALOUS OF THE ESTEEM RICHARD HAS WITH THE COUNTRY[SEE DONATION TOTALS.]

WE WISH HIM A GOOD AND SPEEDY RECOVERY AND HOPE THE BEEB WILL NOT LET THESE IDIOTS GET THE PUBLICITY THEY SEEK ON THE BACK OF THE ACCIDENT.

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