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Tom Stephens interview, II

Adrian Van-Klaveren Adrian Van-Klaveren | 12:47 UK time, Thursday, 21 December 2006

Those of us involved in the editorial decision-making at the BBC this week have read the comments to my earlier entry on this blog. Clearly nothing I say at this point is going to change many people's minds.

What I would stress on the issue of potentially prejudicing any future trial is that we do not believe the decision to broadcast the interview has in any way done this. Our legal advice was very clear. There has be a substantial risk of serious prejudice and the interview we transmitted, in which Tom Stephens gave his own account of events, did not constitute this.

In terms of the decision to broadcast, I can only reiterate how the position had changed between the time of the original conversation and the point at which we broadcast it. By that time, Tom Stephens' identity was prominently in the public domain, he had been substantially quoted and pictured in a front page story in the Sunday Mirror, the full conversation he had with our reporter was available to the police and he had been arrested.

It is worth reflecting on how it would have been viewed in some quarters, if given all those changes, we decided to keep from the public an extremely relevant piece of description and insight. A rather different group of critics would undoubtedly have accused us of deliberately withholding relevant information when there was no legal reason to do so, despite the fact that an extraordinary change in circumstances had taken place since the recording.

The conclusion we reached was based on all of these considerations weighed carefully against the arguments pointing in the other direction. We continue to believe we made the right judgment.


  • 1.
  • At 01:22 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Mike wrote:

You didn't post my comment last time but hope you show all comments in full this time.

Please stop misusing the phrase "public interest". You say you feared criticism for witholding relevant information from the public. The public in the form of 160 commentators on your last blog were clear - you should fear criticism of withholding relevant information from the police, not us. A fair trial is the overriding public interest. Our curiosity does not count in this matter.

We, the public, do not want you, the media, to take any chance that you will prejudice a fair trial. It is so obviously too important that I am staggered you are still maintaining your line. If the lesson cannot be learned then prosecutions against journalists must follow. This is getting out of hand.

  • 2.
  • At 01:32 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • David M wrote:

Leaving aside whether or not it would prejudice this man's trial, and the fact that a good deal of information about this man was available, I think you have failed to adequately explain why you saw fit to breach what I would class as a duty of trust, by broadcasting his interview?

As I understnd it he expressly requested that this did not happen. It seems to me that a preparatory or investigatory interview conducted on such terms should be withheld, except of course from the authorities. I think many people will, like myself, simply believe that the decision was made in the interests of sensationalism, and keeping viewers tuned to the BBC.

  • 3.
  • At 01:48 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Keith Fleming wrote:

As with some of the earlier correspondents, I am not a BBC-basher in any sense, but was appalled, first by the decision to broadcast the interview and then by the attempt to explain away that decision.

This follow-up does little to address many of the concerns of those who found the editorial decision objectionable, beyond addressing a point of law.

It may well be, as you say, that your legal advice was that this would not prejudice a (potential) future trial, and I am perfectly prepared to accept this, being no lawyer.

However, I note that the two other susbstantial criticisms (belonging more to the field of journalistic ethics than to law, and something I am prepared to comment upon)are not addressed in any way, shape or form by the follow-up piece.

To reiterate:
1) You acknowledge that the initial interview was conducted as 'background' as was never intended for broadcast. Indeed, the interviewee was explicitly told this. Nevertheless, the interview was still broadcast. This follow-up has not addressed the ethics of such a decision.
2) You have not, to my satisfaction, answered why this is in 'the public interest' rather than 'something in which the public is interested'). Pandering to prurience, rubber-necking and, most of all, ratings seems to me, still, closer to the second than the first - and perhaps inimical with that first, genuine public interest.

Finally, it is laughable to me that you seem to have taken your cue on journalistic ethics from, of all places, the Sunday Mirror; and that you justify your actions with regard to 'another' (at this stage entirely hypothetical) group of critics.

I await, with some anticipation, a reasonable adressing of these salient points in the near future.

  • 4.
  • At 02:16 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Robbie wrote:

I am glad that 177 comments to the previous blog have at least provoked a response of sorts. However I don't think your response addresses the key points. Firstly I don't understand why you consider the fact of someone's arrest automatically entitles you to disregard their explicit request that an interview not be broadcast. Secondly, even if there is not a "substantial risk of serious prejudice", this simply means the BBC cannot be charged with contempt of court - it does not mean that the trial will not in fact be prejudiced, with the result that the accused walks free. Thirdly, I don't know who the critics are that would say you had "withheld relevant information" - obviously it would be wrong to withhold it from the police, but just because you pass information to the police does not mean you have to broadcast it to the nation!

  • 5.
  • At 02:33 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • James wrote:

Wrong and you have your head in the the sand.

Have you considered what damage you have done to this man's life if he were not charged and released tomorrow?

What if identification is an issue in the case against him? The police could not hope to rely on any identification evidence in this case as any ID would be built on very, very shakey gound as the most widely viewed media outlet in this country has broadcast his image and voice to the world, despite an assurance to him that you would not.

Only 2 people posting comments in response to your other post have in anyway agreed with you, with 175 against at the moment. Do your staff agree with you? How do the King's new clothes look? Listen to your audience rather than exuding this smug "I know better"ness.

  • 6.
  • At 03:01 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Paul Najman wrote:

Dear Adrian,

When you're in a hole, the usual advice is stop digging.

You say-'There has be a substantial risk of serious prejudice' ... er have you got that right? Surely prejudice is prejudice, serous or not.

You say-'In terms of the decision to broadcast, I can only reiterate how the position had changed between the time of the original conversation and the point at which we broadcast it' ... but how does that allow you to breach the famous rule that journalists do not divulge their sources? Please explain, I really do not understand.

And your second-to-last paragraph just shows how low the standards at the BBC have become. That is an argument that The Sun would use to justify anything.

This is not the X-Factor, where you judge whether to run a news story on how many votes you may or may not get.

I don't suppose you'll publish this comment, because hopefully then, this story will just go away.

Paul Najman

  • 7.
  • At 03:03 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Keith wrote:

The arguement over whether this action has potentially prejudiced any future trial is one for the lawyers to argue over should it ever come to that but it's worth noting the apparent change of approach by the BBC as highlighted in post 177 of the initial thread, concerning News Nights refusal to show newspaper details in case they were prejudicial!
That said you can answer one simple question though - namely was Tom Stephens assured that the interview would remain confidential, if so did you gain his approval before broadcasting it? If not how do you expect anyone to trust in the BBC's integrity and provide background information again?

I'm sorry to say your answer appears to be just as self serving as your first attempt.

  • 8.
  • At 03:10 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Chloe wrote:

What a pity you have all got bogged down with semantics surrounding this entire topic.
What an even bigger pity that you have failed totally to discuss the Somalia man allegedly fleeing the country back to Somalia to escape justice dressed in a Burqua, why is this?, perhaps because he came to this country to flee persecution in Somalia but then decided that Somalia was his best option to evade justice in the UK...double standards BBC?.
Again, another pity that you have failed to make any balanced reporting on the escalating tension in Somalia, your website gives a distorted view of the Islamic takeover of this poor country, you fail to take the Islamists to account for their persecution of normal Somalians.
If you read the BBC website it makes the Islamic extremists look like heroes which they are most certainly not, other news sites have managed to give a balanced view, yet the BBC seems incapable or unwilling to do so.

  • 9.
  • At 03:28 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew Hirst wrote:

One question Mr Van-Klaveren. Did you make it clear to Mr Stephens that your agreement to NOT broadcast his interview was based entirely on him NOT speaking to any other media and/or his name NOT becoming public?

If you did not then regardless subsequent interviews and his name becoming public knowledge then you broke YOUR agreement with him.

Clealry the word of the BBC and some of it's editorial staff is worth absolutely nothing.

  • 10.
  • At 03:40 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Matthew Burdett wrote:

So, yet again the BBC editors cannot admit that their decision may well turn out to be incorrect or unwise. A very robust defence indeed. Obviously virtual unanimity in the opinions expressed count for nothing. The whole crux of the issue was the fact you made public comments made to your reporter on condition of anonymity, which you then overrode, if I recall "in the public interest". Indeed, it is probable that your actions are not going to affect any trial per se, but it is a style of reporting, whereby you tear up agreements with members of the public, which is very much more in keeping with a tabloid style of reporting, not the quality one would expect of the BBC. I noticed too the fact you said the father of the second suspect did not wish to be identified as he gave his comments. You preserved his anonymity (to an extent, though you did show his face for a split second at the end of the report). Why should Tom Stephens, having only been accused of the murders, and therefore "innocent until proven guilty", have been treated in any other way?

  • 11.
  • At 03:41 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Patrick Weston wrote:

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear,

Just how much evidence does it take to make you guys understand that the majority of people think that you got this badly wrong.

Apart from any legal issues, where I believe that you would have prejudiced a trial should it amount to that -- and it may well not go that far -- you broke your word and your journalistic integrity. You don't address that point in your sorry follow up justification.

I used to be proud to be British because of the standards associated with our country. Getting more and more difficult to feel that way now and this just goes to underscore the failings in Britain now.

"Clearly nothing I say at this point is going to change many people's minds"

Clearly nothing that almost everyone who's commented on this says is going to change your mind either. You seem to be in a very small minority, and unable to admit it.

  • 13.
  • At 04:20 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Lucy wrote:

While it's good that you have responded to the many comments here, I still don't believe your argument holds water and you have blatantly ignored what, for me, is the key issue: setting aside the legal aspect for now, you have shown an appalling lack of integrity in going back on your promise to Tom Stephens NOT to broadcast his interview. It's irrelevant that other media released his name or published his words - he still expressly requested that YOU wouldn't broadcast it. Was it a case of "everyone else is doing it, so why can't we?"

Essentially what you are saying is that because the "circumstances had changed", you feel justified in breaking your initial agreement. I'm afraid I will never accept that as a valid argument.

I guess we should have known better than to expect an apology from BBC News. You are, after all, always in the right.

  • 14.
  • At 04:34 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Stephen wrote:

As I had feared, a self-serving response which does not address the issue of betraying a source who requested confidentiality.

The fact that this man gave an interview to the Sunday Mirror has nothing to do with his relationship to the BBC journalist.

You claim the BBC's interview was 'an extremely relevant piece of description and insight', yet it contained little that wasn't in the Sunday Mirror's piece.

And if it was so interesting, why did the BBC not broadcast it when it was recorded, BEFORE this man was arrested? Because you saw the bandwagon trailing off into the distance?

This, I think, is a pretty lame excuse. You are entitled to your opinion, but I would hardly have expected you to say anything else. I can't ever remember hearing a BBC mea culpa.

  • 15.
  • At 05:28 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

The point is that you went back on an agreement.
You appear to believe that the circumstances justify that. It is clear that most people do not.
A lot more important than this case is the credibility of the BBC. I would not now trust it with confidential information: the more so as a deputy director condones this behaviour.

  • 16.
  • At 05:36 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

Out of 177 replays to your previous post, 176 clearly state you made the wrong decision. What makes it worse is that you are still choosing to show his picture when ever you can. Presumbly, you still feel, despite the overwelming evidence to the contary that it is in the "public intrest".

  • 17.
  • At 06:20 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Murphy wrote:

"We continue to believe we made the right judgment".

Good for you! you stick to your guns on this. After all you are an independent news organisation, you only need to answer to your board and shareholders. You are allowed to have your own voice and add your own spin to the news as it suits you. I am not really sure why you feel the need to explain in the first place, don't worry about us, we are just customers, we are not going anywhere.

Oh, wait a minute...

Ive made a mistake, this isn't Sky is it??

Sorry, easy mistake.

  • 18.
  • At 06:22 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Matt Stevens wrote:

It's the sort of shoddy tabloid stuff we expect from Murdoch. Many prople tune to the BBC to aviod this stuff and get some proper journalism. It is a pity that you have decided to join the tabloids in the gutter and to be quite happy to destroy someones life in pursuit of ratings

  • 19.
  • At 06:32 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Bob wrote:

"A rather different group of critics" - an important point. The posters dont disagree with the decision, the average layperson isnt informed enough to reach a conclusion. Their views are cleaqrly biased against the BBC and have little or no merit.
The BBC are NOT a democracy, thank God. Out of 177 posters, 176 are stupid.

  • 20.
  • At 06:41 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • jez wrote:

I'm sure the BBC has acted legally in this matter but has it acted ethically?

Many people who responded to your first post were critical because the BBC had assured him that the interview was off-the-record and would be used for "background purposes only".

Whilst it may have been legal to release the audio recording, it was unethical to do so as you had assured him of anonymity.

  • 21.
  • At 08:08 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew Dawson wrote:

What's the point of blogging if you don't consider and listen to the comments left, particularly when there is an obvious strength of feeling in one particular direction?

  • 22.
  • At 10:31 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew Dawson wrote:

Well, now he's been released on bail, you had better get your chequebook ready for his compensation claim. What a waste of licence fee payer's money.

  • 23.
  • At 10:43 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Leep wrote:

As a trainee journalist I understand the legal and ethical issues that the BBC faces on a daily basis. I believe that the BBC made the right decision here. There was a wealth of information already in the public domain about Tom Stephens and by broadcasting the interview the BBC has prejudiced a trial no further than other media outlets have done already, if they have at all. If the BBC had not shown the interview they would have been criticised equally if not more.

  • 24.
  • At 11:01 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Adrian Kent wrote:

I notice Adrian van Klaveren's response is silent on the point
that most troubled many listeners:
the BBC broke its promise of
confidentiality to Tom Stephens.
It doesn't seem to have been a conditional promise, and I can't
see any possible justification for breaking it, regardless of the changed circumstances -- which in fact don't seem to have changed very dramatically at all. After all, Mr Stephens himself predicted he would be arrested and released without
charge, which is precisely what has happened.

I think Adrian van Klaveren and everyone else responsible for this decision should resign or be sacked.
Otherwise, there seems no good reason why anyone should ever trust
a BBC reporter's promise of confidentiality again.
Who agrees?

  • 25.
  • At 11:07 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Allan Moore wrote:

I cannot believe the tabloid level reporting that the BBC has stooped to. It is an absolute disgrace that the BBC should continue to hide behind the 'public interest' technicality veil. This is a contempt of court issue, pure and simple, and the BBC has broken the law. The Attorney General, and tonight CPS were quite clear on the issue. The fact that 99% of the comments / complaints published here reflect that the public believe the BBC was inherantly wrong in its actions. The fact that the BBC HAS contributed to the ruining of an innocent (of murder) mans' life disgusts me. The fact that the BBC will not acknowledge this FACT, and make a public apology disgusts me even more. How the official stance can remain that there was no potential prejudice to a fair trial as a result of the BBC reporting is, quite frankly, laughable. I sincerely hope that the BBC has a long hard look at itself after this issue is finally closed, and does not stoop to such lows in sensationalist tabloid reporting again. Unfortunately it is a trend I have seen (though not to this level until now) becoming more and more apparent with the BBC over the past year or two. Awating further respose - Allan Moore BA (Law).

  • 26.
  • At 11:11 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Chrissie wrote:

Stephen Wright has now been charged and Tom Stephens released without charge on bail.
The Police never released Tom Stephens name but you,the high and mighty BBC chose to effectively prejudice a mans life without thought or permission.
You may now have hung the wrong man out to dry.
Shame on you, we are all entitled to innocent before proven guilty, are you now judge and jury of your publics lives?
I do not know how you can get away with such a miscarriage of justice.
Public intrest my foot!
Gutter press reporting more like.

  • 27.
  • At 11:15 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Duncan wrote:

now he has been released (on bail) and another man charged, do you still feel the appalling lack of integrity you displayed is still justified?

Will you provide a public apology after potentially destroying this mans life.....but hell it was in the interest of the public (not public interest) so I guess that makes it ok then!!

Don't worry, when you get up in the morning and go to the shops etc, It won't be your face that people point at and say, isn't that the guy the BBC showed on the TV as being the murderer of the those 5 prostitutes!!

  • 28.
  • At 11:25 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Ric wrote:

Seeing the BBC make an ass of itself is always worth it :)

  • 29.
  • At 11:28 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Mark Molyneux wrote:

I am surprised and disappointed that you and your editorial team are not prepared to acknowledge that you blundered in at least three respects when you broadcast the interview with Stephens. Firstly you broke a confidence in prusuit of a scoop. Secondly you put the interest of the public before the pulic interest. Thirdly you probably judged in your own minds that this man was likely to be guilty despite no concrete evidence other than his arrest for questioning. You have harmed yourselves and the BBC and I find it breathtaking that you still try and justfy your original decision despite the subsequent arrest of another man. If you reflect for a moment on the overwhelming balance of the comments made in this forum by informed people, does it not, in the pit of your stomach, tell you that just maybe you got this one wrong and perhaps it is time to apologise? Or have your lawyers advised you that to do so would risk an action for damages from Stephens?
As for the excuse that the Sunday Mirror had published the story already and therefore what you did was Ok; that seems a pretty dodgy piece of logic, if only becase their judgment too might be wrong. What's more you seem to be tacitly accepting the charge from many of your correspondents that what we are witnessing is the deliberate decent by the BBC into the tabloid gutter. If I wanted to read the Sunday Mirror I would buy it.

  • 30.
  • At 11:32 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Doug wrote:

The conclusion you reached was based on the fact you had a great exclusive. Please admit what your own tv news bulletins were flagging up on the day of broadcast. Sure, there were other considerations, but it insults readers' intelligence to deny that exclusivity was a factor.

Surely the sensible thing would have been to wait for any conviction of Tom Stephens and then to have run the interview in a post-trial news report.

Under that scenario you would still have had exclusive material, you wouldn't have breached the spirit or letter of contempt law, and you might have won more public sympathy on the tricky issue of broadcasting an interview recorded for background purposes. By that stage, of course, your interviewee would be a convicted murderer..

p.s. I also note that it's now "those of us involved in the decision-making process.." Surely not an attempt by an embattled bbc manager to dilute the blame?

  • 31.
  • At 11:32 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • rob cole wrote:

Just one question - does the BBC really think anyone will give them an anonymous interview ever again? TRUST is one of the key pronciples of the Corporation but where has it gone?

  • 32.
  • At 11:37 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • James wrote:

And so, Tom Stephens is released from custody and another man charged. I wonder what your lawyers advice will be to you now when Mr Stephens' lawyers come knocking, as they surely will.

Public Interest? Tosh. Prurient Interest? I rather think so.

  • 33.
  • At 11:41 PM on 21 Dec 2006,
  • Allan Moore wrote:

In addition to my earlier complaint - why is it that the BBC cannot get it into their heads. Whilst broadcasting the interview itself was a gross act of breach of confidentiality, and means I would NEVER trust a BBC reporter again, what was MORE disturbing still was the composition of the surrounding reporting on the issue. Pictures and information from Tom Stephens personal website, focus on the picture with "disturbing" eye paint. I could not believe the sensationalist tabloid reporting I was watching. You say it was in the 'public interest' - NO, you have confused this with what the public are INTERESTED IN! You say the manner of reporting would not prejudice a fair trial? Well I was in a room with 3 other people when I saw the report and ALL 3 others were comenting 'oh yes he looks evil', and 'I'm sure he did it or the BBC would not be broadcasting this'. Does that not tell you all you need to know?? The BBC managed to persuade these people that Stephens was guilty (prejudice!!!), and with the second comment it shows that people may percieve that what the BBC reports is held in higher esteem. The public DEMANDS that you apologise now for the BBC's grossly irresponsible reporting on this occasion. How you can continue to attempt to defend your position beggers belief and is now bordering on arrogance. In fact, I personally now believe that your position has become untenable as a result...

  • 34.
  • At 12:36 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • ricky wrote:


You wrote; "Clearly nothing I say at this point is going to change many people's minds."

They are not "many people" Adrian, they are "the public" the ones you are meant to be serving. The same ones you said were so interested in the minutia of the story that you broke an agreement of confidentiality in order to please their thirst for information.

If you want to change their minds, try saying this to those same people;

"As a deputy director of the BBC I understand that many people trust the BBC and that this trust is central to what we do.

As the Police have now released Mr Stephens and charged another man, I'd like to apologise to Mr Stephens for any inconvenience or distress our breaking of his agreement with us caused him. I'd also like to apologise to the licence payers and other people for the apalling lack of ethical judgement I showed.

I also note the points the Attorney General made today to editors to think before they act".

  • 35.
  • At 12:36 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Simon Jackson wrote:

The public are interested. U gotta remember all these internet morons arent the "public". Keep up the good work.

  • 36.
  • At 03:35 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Abby wrote:

A journalist releases interviews obtained off-the-record ONLY if they are forced to by a court of law, or if they are released from their promise by the interviewee, NOT because another newspaper got an interview on record. What a shameful turn of events. It's disgusting, and the fact that you cannot even admit your mistake is worse. Isn't there such a thing as breach of promise in the UK? Couldn't it apply to a case like this, as it has in the past in the States?

Actions like this make it harder for all journalists. Well done.

  • 37.
  • At 05:14 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Robert wrote:

It is heartening how insightful are the other comments to this list. I also don't see how this BBC editor can be seen as other than arrogant, dismissive, and unethical. He betrayed the confidence of an interviewee without consent, and for trivial, opportunistic, self-serving reasons. This exceptional action implied that the BBC thought the man was guilty, which is an outrage. And now he says "Clearly nothing I say at this point is going to change many people's minds"- the typical defensive rant of the superior and the petulant, all too familiar in the Blair era. In my view this editor should resign. He'll get plenty of offers from the tabloids.

  • 38.
  • At 05:56 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew Norris wrote:

You've not listened to most of the comments! Let me explain. Stephens did not want the interview to be published. The BBC broke their word with him. Just because the Sun and Mirror ran details of him, does not mean they broke their word with him. You did, they did not. THIS is what everyone has been complaining about.

I think even the Sun and Mirror protect their sources better. A organization's word is crucial. It does not matter if the damage to this man's reputation was already done by the Sun and by the Mirror. We knew about that. What was really bad, what offended in most of these comments - is the way the BBC did it - against an agreement.

And I must add that your defense of why it would not affect a trail - is (what I read) along the lines of this, "people have no confidence in the media anyway - so anything we run would not affect a trial." This is crazy! You run this man's words, which are independent of your editing (the question of confidence does not apply).

You just don't get it, do you?

You obtained a confidential interview and broadcast it without permission.

Your justification is that the media, including yourselves, but the information in the public domain so it was in the public interest to breach this confidentiality.

I ask you again, what was the pressing public interest in releasing this tape? There was nothing really important or new in it. You could easily have done a piece on men who hang round prostitutes without breaching confidentiality. The only interest I can see is that it got you a scoop over the Mirror and Sky News. It was purient interest and not public interest.

Now he has been released on bail do you not think that there is the possibility that releasing this tape has contributed to ruining an innocent man's life?

I will never give any information to the BBC in confidence. I just don't trust you to put ethics above your short term interest.

I know things have been hard for the BBC with Birt's restructuring, the lack of cash and the fact that your best people are now working for al Jazeera, but you really need to improve your game and heading downwards into tabloidland isn't the way forward for what was once, the world's best news provider.

Yesterday I thought this issue was about a bad judgement call in a busy newsroom, today I think it's just a symptom of a much deeper malaise.

  • 40.
  • At 07:28 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • marcia salmond wrote:

Sadly even the best loose sight of basic principles when engulfed in a bicker.The fact that you are not lucid to an outsider is a fair indication that the boat has sailed, so to speak....whatever you have done or others have done or not done drum beating won't get it undone,chum.

  • 41.
  • At 08:47 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

The almost unanimous response to your last piece shows very clearly what the readers of this site think of your decision. I expected a follow-up to admit that you had got this wrong and to respond to some of the more important points made. As you have not done this, it is perhaps worth repeating that you have disgracefully gone back on a confidentiality agreement with this man and you seem to not understand the difference between "public interest" and what the public is interested in. Shame on you.

  • 42.
  • At 08:53 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Jill Clayton wrote:

In this or any other legal issue, the public interest surely depends on minds of a potential jury not being prejudiced. An innocent man's life could be ruined. A guilty man could go free if it is held that a fair trial would be impossible.
Either outcome would be terrible.
(Like everybody else, including the BBC, I have no idea which is the case here.) We have these rules to apply to all cases so that guilt or innocence are decided purely on admissible evidence at the trial.
How dare you ignore the basic principles of justice?

  • 43.
  • At 09:40 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Tim C wrote:

As plenty of other contributors have already said, Mr Van-Klaveren, there is a vast difference between telling the public the facts about an important national story and trying to keep up with the tabloids in getting out every extraneous piece of information you can. The distinstion between the public interest and what interests the public is also very well rehearsed.

It's a real shame that you can't or won't accept the fact that on this occasion you made a misjudgement.

  • 44.
  • At 09:53 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

Sometimes in life you have to hold your hands up and say sorry (fullstop), clearly your ego (and that of the BBC) is incapable of such acts. Merry Christmas Tom.

  • 45.
  • At 10:01 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • aylssa wrote:

Now that he has not been charged with anything do the BBC still believe it was morally right to show his face alongside a taped interview for background purposes only which was never meant for broadcast, made in good faith, which will have far reaching implications for his life? I have given background interviews for the BBC in the past and I shall not be doing so again.

  • 46.
  • At 10:18 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Rik Bean wrote:

I note, Mr Van-Klaveren, that you are convinced that you are right despite the significant number of posts in the original thread disagreeing with your decision (and that's only the ones you chose to publish).

You still seek to justify a public interest argument, you still defend a breach of confidence. Whatever may have been said to another journalist, if the agreement with your reporter was that the comments were not for broadcast, that should have been honoured.

That the BBC has behaved in this way brings into question whether it should continue to be funded by the licence fee. As you apparently value ratings rather than integrity, I feel it should not.

It seems to me that your position has been further weakened by the release, albeit on Police bail, of Mr Stephens, while Mr Wright has been charged with the murders. If no charges are brought, and Mr Stephens choses to sue, who will pay any damages awarded - the licence fee payer or the BBC management who made the decision? (The question is rhetorical...)

  • 47.
  • At 10:21 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Jack P Toerson wrote:

There are no new arguments in your blog post at all. It's the same justifications given in the first post repeated in a slightly different way. History will judge the BBC on turning 'research' into news. 'They did it first' is not a valid defence.

People should make formal complaints through the BBC and through elected representatives such as MPs. As such taking a softly-softly approach by engaging in dialogue via blog comments isn't working. The BBC editors do not see a problem with what they did.

  • 48.
  • At 10:32 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • David Jones wrote:

Oh dear - it seems that Mr Stephens - the man that the BBC lied to and hung out to dry - has actually been released without charge. Three questions for Adrian Van Klaveren

1. Do you actually understand the difference between something being in the public interest, and something the public is interested in ?

2. Have you got the personal integrity to apologise to Mr Stephens for your behaviour ?

3. Have you got the professional integrity to resign after breaching the fundamental rules of journalism in pursuit of a day's ratings ?

  • 49.
  • At 11:22 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Graham wrote:

Why don't you just resign?
You made a serious error of judgement and you arrogance on this matter is just asounding, depressing and not what the BBC should be standing for. Don't hide behind "Advice" the man has been released, I bet your fisrt though when you heard that was "Oh No"

  • 50.
  • At 11:34 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Simon Walsh wrote:

You have brought the credibility of the BBC into question putting hype ahead of integrity of justice. I call for you to step down.

  • 51.
  • At 11:40 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Daniel Owen wrote:

It is worth reflecting on how it would have been viewed in some quarters, if given all those changes, we decided to keep from the public an extremely relevant piece of description and insight

Which quarters would those be? No one knew you even had the interview until you broadcast it. And even if we did, all the BBC needed to do was say: 'we can't broadcast the interview in case it prejudices a future trial, but we've handed it over to the police' and I can't see how anyone could reasonably have objected.

You played around with the life of a man who, right now, is completely innocent. It's not just the total absence of professionalism or ethics that shocks me; it's the absence of any basic decency.

Mr Stephens has Ofcom to complain to about your grossly unfair treatment of him. As licence fee payers, we have the BBC Trust to hold you to account - and I urge everyone reading this to write to the BBC Trust.

  • 52.
  • At 11:57 AM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Ewan Hyde wrote:

The BBC's behaviour in this matter is disgusting and you should be asheamed. Not only because of your sick eagerness to get one over on your competitors ruining the life of a potentially innocent person and seriously damaging the lives of all his family, but because of you refusal to admit a mistake when it is plainly clear to everyone.

Refusal to accept mistakes shows a callous disregard for the truth and a total lack of integrity. You, and your colleagues, should be sacked immediately and replaced by trustworthy individuals who are capable to do the job.

The BBC has lost credibility with the public recently over so many issues and this is just another nail in their coffin.

  • 53.
  • At 12:18 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Chris wrote:

Now he has been released and another man charged are you going to apologise to this man for breaking your promise?

  • 54.
  • At 12:55 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • John, Devon wrote:

Paul Najman is right. When you're in a hole, stop digging.

The way the BBC has handled this whole case - sensationalising the murders, over the top live reporting, calling the women prostitutes at every turn, revealing names prematurely, using the interview with the suspect, the list goes on - reflects very badly on you. This is not the kind of journalism we expect from the BBC.

I hope Helen Boaden and Mark Thompson are going to look very hard at the whole saga. It's a case study of how not to handle a news story.

  • 55.
  • At 01:20 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

In the light of current developments, I hope that Tom Stephens takes the BBC to court and thus to the cleaners.

The BBC has become staffed with tabloid hacks who cannot see the harm that their actions do - sometimes to totally innocent people. All is justified on the basis that (a) either the Daily Mail/Sunday Mirror did it first, so we had to follow (b) if we didn't reveal it we would be accused of a cover-up. Frankly this is a pathetic line of argument.

No twinge of regrets, no apologies - we are the BBC and we are untouchable. The public saw this after the Hutton report and it would seem that nothing hsa changed.

  • 56.
  • At 01:28 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • LetchworthSmith wrote:

Section 2 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 provides that a person can be guilty of contempt by publication under the strict liability rule, that is regardless of intent - only in cases where:
(a) the publication creates a substantial risk of serious prejudice or impediment to particular proceedings; and
(b) proceedings are active.
That's the legal side of things, so on that point I do have to disagree with the first comment on here - posted by Paul Paul Najman - as that is the wording in law, whether you like it or not.
However, saying that, for the deputy editor of BBC News to say that the position changed between the time of the original conversation and the point to which they broadcast it, citing that Tom Stphens' identity was already know, he had been interviewed in the Sunday Mirror etc.
Simply because information has been published in another form doesn't mean it is ok to do this yourself. Using the defence that others did it has no grounding in law and is not how one would expect the BBC to act.
Proceedings were active and the BBC were treading a very thin wire indeed.
I also wonder if the BBC's act was a breach of confidence with Mr Stephens?

  • 57.
  • At 01:29 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Elizabeth O'Hare wrote:

It just seems to me that the standard of news at the once great BBC is not much different to that of the tabloids.

  • 58.
  • At 01:42 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • David Matthews wrote:

Oh dear, it appears Mr Stevens did not kill those women as he has been released and someone else has been charged. Does anyone at the BBC think it might be in the public interest to have Mr Van-Klaveren and his team on the nightly news explaining why an innocent man was made a promise by the BBC that was subsequently thrown in the bin simply because everyone else was behaving in a shabby manner? Will you apologise to this man even? If any government agency had behaved in this way towards someone then I'm sure you'd be filling the airwaves with indignant protest.
You have really let everyone down, including yourselves.

  • 59.
  • At 02:09 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

I notice that your attempts at justifying your decision to broadcast the interview did not even mention the issue of whether Tom Stephens had given his consent for it to be broadcast. That's a shame, because I think it's an extremely important point.

Still, some credit is due for at least taking the trouble to respond to the criticism, albeit in a somewhat half-hearted fashion. I can't imagine any newspaper editors would even give us that much.

  • 60.
  • At 02:28 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Roger Carr wrote:

We only know Tom Stephens' name because the BBC told us. The Police didn't tell us.

You then broadcast an interview, obtained under specific conditions but broadcast in variance with those conditions, saying "this is the man arrested" with a clear inferrence that what was said was relevant to the arrest. How many times have we heard John Humphrys or Jeremy Paxman go after a tabloid journalist for exactly those reasons?

This man has been released, uncharged, but with a note in everyone's mind.

As they say in America, go figure.

And, I suggest, stop digging, stop trying to justify and just admit you were wrong and apologise

  • 61.
  • At 02:34 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew Norris wrote:

I think the comments here have been brilliant. People have gone out of their way to make the point very clear with excellent pieces of writing. And they are all beating to the same drum. You simply cannot ignore this or the efforts people have gone to. We are not being paid to write! Simon in particular in comment 22 got the points clear in a very short space. Please listen! Please see that Adrian does something!

  • 62.
  • At 03:49 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Benjamin Pennington wrote:

As a journalist i can see the dilema here for Van-Klaveren and with the legal nod I can also see why you ran with the story - many journalists would have.

However a key point which has been brought up implicitly and explicitly over and over again is that this is the BBC - a publicly funded organisation with no specific mandate to chase ratings (although it would be naive in the extreme to believe that this is not what happens). I have to say that i feel that the expected ethics of the BBC should have been included in this decision.

It appears they were not or at least you are ommitting that conversation from your explanations for your actions. This is unacceptable as it is this explanation/rationalisation that the majority of bloggers here want to read.

The BBC also points out that much of the information was in the public domain already - this is a red herring - that would mean the BBC could have easily ran a story very similar in content drawing on a wide variety of sources without breaching any confidentialities or ethical boundaries. However the nature of the 'exclusive' clearly evoked the Murdoch tendencies in the journalists concerned and with that most precious of journalistic prizes in their sights - an exclusive scoop - they blundered into the pit they now find themselves in.

You have no-one to blame but yourselves and as you hide behind legal niceties (while ironically lambasting Mr Blair and his dodgy legal advice over Iraq - just enough to cover his back not enough to exonerate his actions) i hope that in your hearts you know that you have stepped over a line and learnt an important lesson so that next time you will make a better decision.

  • 63.
  • At 03:51 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Lauren wrote:

It worries me that the backlash regarding this may have biased people's opinions the wrong way. If this man indeed is guilty of murder, people may be unwilling to use the interview as the credible piece of evidence that it is. It was rightly made available to the police but was not "in the public interest", it was a cheap attempt to boost ratings.

  • 64.
  • At 05:37 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • James Collins wrote:

Absolute rubbish Mr Van-Klaveren and you know it.

You might not be able to change our minds, as you see it, but that’s because we are right and you have made a grave mistake. Perhaps its your mind that needs changing (perish the thought).

What do you not grasp here? People will now judge the BBC by its actions. I gander you'll have a hard time interviewing the public in the future.

You have lost this one, time to grow up and take it like a man, after all its us that pay your wages.


  • 65.
  • At 05:55 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew St.Denis wrote:

In response to Adrian's comments at the top of the page:-

Okay, in what way did his identity being known make a blind bit of difference? his comments were made as background and his request was for it not to be published.

His interview was to the Sunday Mirror, it was printed in that same paper, you are, at last check, not the Sunday Mirror. Although by your actions you are rapidly catching up.

His being arrested did not make him guilty nor remove his basic right to have you follow his request not to publish those comments and in what way does passing the interview onto the police change that permission requirement?

Come on Adrian, explain your, and the BBC's actions properly!

  • 66.
  • At 05:57 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Shaun Ross wrote:

It is not up to you to decide if you made the right decision but that of the relevant organizations of whom I will be contacting.

  • 67.
  • At 06:10 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Glynn Jones wrote:

Ultimately there is one person responsible for the decision to air the interview with this man against his wishes. Who that person is I don't know, but that person should, at the very least, be relieved of their post and I feel it would be fitting if they were to face the full force of the British judicial system.

The arrogance of the BBC editors has been demonstrated to be absolutely breathtaking.

  • 68.
  • At 06:25 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Rupert RG wrote:

Every single comment is in agreement. Would you now properly address the issues raised instead of simply repeating a self-serving explanation. Explanation is not justification. Every day that passes without a full response is another day when BBC news's reputation slides. Many people are very exercised by the issue and your response to it. We deserve better than we have so far been given.

  • 69.
  • At 07:41 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Chloe wrote:

What a wonderful response from the General Public, what a bigoted response from the BBC.
Lets hope that the BBC not receiving the inflation busting increase in the license fee will now force a change in their anti-viewer/listener policies.
It defies my understanding to see what possible rationale the BBC had to break an agreement with this man, the BBC prides itself on being a British institution...well over the last few years this pride has become arrogance and the only institution the BBC should belong to is that of institutionaly useless.

  • 70.
  • At 08:17 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Colin Bordley wrote:

Even nursery school kids wouldn't buy the excuse that it was ok to broadcast Tom Stephens' identity because others had already revealed it. I remember that if my nursery school teacher asked a child why he'd done something bad and they replied "because someone else did it first," she would just say "oh, and if he put his hand in the fire, would you also do the same?"

Just because other elements of the media have chosen to make sensationalism their raison d'etre, it does not follow that the BBC has to do the same. I'm satisfied to know that "a man in is helping police with their enquiries". I don't need to know where he lives or what his name is and I certainly don't need to watch worried relatives being 'doorstepped' by tactless and intrusive reporters.

  • 71.
  • At 09:24 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Spi wrote:

At least the BBC is brave enough to allow comment on it's editorial policies and decisions. However, this issue has brought into sharp focus the standard of journalism of all the media. Only this evening the BBC featured an "interview" with the father of one of the poor girls. What concerned me was that the interviewees responses were relayed by speakerphone via mobile phone in the reporters car. I would be interested to know if the person interviewed was aware this arrangement was in place and warned that his comments were going to be broadcast in this way. The more the media employ dubious practices the more likely it is that self-regulation is seen as unworkable.

  • 73.
  • At 09:45 PM on 22 Dec 2006,
  • Brian McC wrote:

Publication of the interview is unlikely to constitute a contempt and it is unlikely that Mr. Stephens can taken the BBC "to the cleaners". And indeed, Mr. Stephens has not been cleared but is bailed, and Mr. Wright has not been convicted.

But that does not excuse the acutely unethical behaviour of those including Adrian Van-Klaveren who chose to publish an interview given in confidence.

Publication reeks of journalists seeking to raise their profile and so further their careers. At the expense of Mr. Stephens, a man who was patently vulnerable and naieve.

It will have been as plain as a pikestaff to the BBC that publication was unethical and in the worst traditions of the gutter press. An interview is given in confidence - the interviewee is later arrested. It is a non sequitur to argue that the arrest undermines the confidence of the interview.

The reason why no apology is forthcoming is fairly obvious - Mr. Van-Klaveren and his editorial colleagues are worried about their jobs. Hence the self-serving justification following the barrage of criticism now received.

They remember what happened to Andrew Gilligan and Greg Dyke.

Do you not think, Mr. Van-Klavaren that a gentle apology 'with the benefit of hindsight' emphasising the difficult choice you had to make might be becoming of you? Or will you stick like a limpet to your decision to publish?

A simple test of character.

  • 74.
  • At 01:03 AM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • Michael wrote:

Given that you have failed to respond to the central criticism concerning the breaking ofa confidence to a source perhaps you could instead advise on the route by which members of the public can formally complain about your activities. I would hope that as a Public Sector broadcaster there is such a mechanism?

This is such unfortunate behaviour - it will only weaken the BBC in any future arguements with the the Government when they try to lean on the Corporation over editorial freedom.

Perhaps the jounalists involved should also think on the fact that other journalists have faced prison and worse to avoid revealing confidential sources...

  • 75.
  • At 02:37 AM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

It does not matter what the case. It does not matter what the circumstances. An agreement is an agreement and is not to be broken unless there is a legal obligation to do so, or by subsequent agreement.
The BBC is undermining what integrity it has left in avoiding the main issue and defending the indefensible.

  • 76.
  • At 08:30 AM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • ravindran wrote:

Nobody expects BBC to be infallible.But after getting the pulse of feeling from an obviously well informed and erudite public,I was expecting BBC to show some conciliation by acknowledging merit in the other point of view.But alas.....
Which brings up another question.Are these websites required to function
as cathartic tools only to vent off
public steam?Or are they intended to serve a larger purpose?
Well, it looks to me(a first time contributer from India)as if the doomsday to journalistic perfidy is not far off(judging by some comments, it has already arrived!),unless BBC does a serious introspection in hindsight.

  • 77.
  • At 11:38 AM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • David wrote:

Have you considered what damage you have done to this man's life if he were not charged and released tomorrow?

Oops. No doubt the subsequent legal action will cost the licence-payer a packet. That'll certainly be in the public interest.

  • 78.
  • At 01:25 PM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • cheryl wrote:

Makes you think that there isn't much difference between the ethics of the gutter press and the ethics of the BBC. Well done, BBC.. you've sucessfully thrown yourself into the same dirty pit as the Mirror.

The only reason the BBC broadcast the interview was in an attempt to grab high ratings.

Sadly, the BBC has followed the 'American way' and journalism has suffered at the hands of ratings.

  • 80.
  • At 11:00 PM on 23 Dec 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

None so blind.

  • 81.
  • At 12:30 AM on 24 Dec 2006,
  • Robert Digings wrote:

Adrian, thank you for your response to the comments on your first post on this subject, one of which was mine. It's good to know that the editorial team has seen the strength of concern regarding the decision to broadcast this interview.

I continue to be deeply unhappy that the BBC's news operation, which is internationally respected and without doubt one of the best in the world, continues to stand by its decision to renege on an agreement with a member of the public, who had assisted your reporting efforts by supplying a background interview not for broadcast. My opinion is not based on your legal obligations, although they are of substancial importance, but on professional integrity, which you appear to have little concern about, and somewhat surprisingly don't address in your second post.

You say had you not broadcast this interview another group of critics would have accused you of withholding relevant information. I don't believe this to be true if one, you had made the tape available to the police, and two, you explained that you only had the information in the first place on the understanding that it was not for broadcast and you could not break that trust on a point of principle.

But let's put that to one side for a moment and explore further your stated position. I would like to know and understand the BBC's policy concerning requests for non-broadcast and the specific changes in circumstance needed for the BBC to consider that type of agreement breakable.

This is important for it achieves consistency, transparency and most importantly trust, which is what this whole issue is about.

If tomorrow I agree to do a recorded audio interview for background purposes with one of your journalists on the understanding that you won't broadcast it, what specifically has to happen either to me or in general for me to no longer rightly expect you to keep your word? For instance, is it that I'm arrested? Or that I give an on-the-record interview on the same subject to another news organisation? Or both? Or something else?

And lastly, is it your policy to make these conditions explicit to whoever is about to supply you with information on the understanding you won't broadcast it? I would hope so, otherwise you would be deliberately misleading them.

I, along with many other readers and contributers to this thread I imagine, would be interested in your response.


Robert Digings

  • 82.
  • At 11:32 AM on 24 Dec 2006,
  • Gary wrote:

It seems like the only people who think it's in the public interest is the BBC. The public clearly do not (as these comments here attest).

I wonder if there will be a high price to pay? I would certainly never speak confidentially to the BBC now, and I expect many others would also now feel the same.

That is such a shame for the BBC that had such a great reputation.

Why is there such a chasm between what you believe to be an ethical decision and the view of the public? Why cannot you acknowledge you may have hot this wrong? It appears that the average man in the street (i.e. the public) simply do not see this as an ethical decision.

The BBC are clearly hoping that if they ignore it, the issue will go away.

So i've put in a complaint here

  • 84.
  • At 11:16 PM on 27 Dec 2006,
  • Mike Groszmann wrote:

I complained about the basic unethical nature of the BBCs reporting.

But the BBC have only addressed their possible jeapordising of his trial in Van-Klaverens unsatisfactory response. Well, trial aside, what about the basic ethics of their actions? No - clearly not worthy of consideration. Another example of the BBC's (and society's) lack of sense of social and civic responsibility. Which is why we have such increasing social dysfunction - led by a media that take no responsibility nor consideration for the personal consequences of thier sexy, exciting story. All about 'me' - who cares about anyone else!

As a doctor I consider confidentiality issues as central - only to be breached in cases of protection of others - not to get a sensational scoop or further ones career / readership. No justification at all for destroying this mans life by public humiliation.

What a disgrace.

  • 85.
  • At 06:29 PM on 29 Dec 2006,
  • Bill Dixon wrote:

It's outrageous that a BBC editor should try to justify something that would even make Murdoch have second thoughts. Just do us a favour, Adrian, and go somewhere else.

While I agree with the overwhelming majority that the BBC was simply wrong in reneging on a fair agreement for the interview to be background material only - and the methods in which you did so contributed to a potentially innocent man's persecution in the public's eyes (jury or not - and I realise the BBC were not the cause, nor necessarily the biggest culprit - but they contributed in the same style of tabloid journalism), I am both shocked and dismayed to find people calling for Mr Van-Klaveren's dismissal or resignation.

The BBC, is a relatively good organisation, Mr Van-Klaveren has been good enough at his job to rise to the position he is in. You don't throw away good people on a mistake, on the contrary - you sit down and look at what mistake was made, and how in future this mistake can be avoided (without hog tying the employee in question).

This is not the government where the only recourse to reverse negative opinion of a bad decision is to give the cause of that bad opinion the push (regardless of whether he's been good at his job), this is a company and it's people are it's assets.

I call on the BBC to sit down and make an internal investigation of this matter - not from the point of view of whether they broke the law by compromising future juries (I don't believe there was anything significant particularly in their story - though if there were, you would need to look towards better regulation of the media's interest in specific crime stories, which may be something we need regardless of this story), but from the point of view whether it was ethical behaviour, and given controversies in the recent past, was it wise to once again bring the BBC into the dispute of journalistic integrity.

The BBC is perfectly capable of making this investigation itself - it is a company after all, and one built on reputation... it's interests in properly investigating the ethical conduct are plainly in it's own best interests. It can then properly decide what the best course of action to take is - hopefully not against any single person, but maybe issuing guidance, or policy to prevent further unethical action.

I do believe it was unethical, and hope that any investigation is able to recognise this - and that another consequence would be an apology to Tom Stephens, with serious consideration of whether that apology should be private or public (depending on whether the investigation found the unethical conduct affected mostly Tom Stephens, or Tom Stephens and the license paying public as a whole).

I wish everyone a happy new year - and hope that next will see justice for these women and their families is achieved, and that the innocent are further left untarnished by the actions of an individual or organisation.

  • 87.
  • At 06:12 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • David M wrote:

I quite agree with Mr. Lawrence's comments, and hope the BBC take note of our criticisms. It certainly irks me when things like this blog or, say, Newswatch, are touted as a way of having the public's voice heard only for our input to either be disregarded or rebuffed.

This I believe is one of the problems of having a behemoth such as the BBC; it's often too easy to ignore the small guys.

Who pay your bills.

  • 88.
  • At 06:35 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Mark TJ Molyneux wrote:

Jonathan L Lawrence makes a very fair point when he points out (in 86) that everyone makes mistakes and that they, and their organisation, should learn from those errors rather than simply firing the culprit.

What we don't know is what internal review, if any, the BBC is proposing / conducting of Adrian's decision to break a confidence in pursuit of a scoop and what lessons will be learned. All we have seen thus far, I'm afraid, is a weak attempt by Adrian to justify what many obvioulsy judge to be a bad decision on his part to broadcast the Stephens interview. Those that make errors, especially those in leadership positions, also have responsibility to acknowledge and recognise their mistakes. I suspect it is Adrian's "head in the sand-ism" which particularly frustrates the the contributors to this thread. Contributors who are prepared to express their views not because they are members of an awkward squad, but because they care passionately about values such as integrity, trust and independence and don't care for the values of the tabloid press.

Presumably a review is taking place (will somebody tell us) and hopefully we will be told the outcome.

Incidentally, Adrian, I can imagine you and your colleagues groaning as you read some of these remarks and I congratulate you for having published your two columns. Unfortunately for you, we're witnessing some new and powerful type of openness and accountability in progress and you are on the receiving end of it. Well done; just learn and enjoy.

Best wishes for the New year

86: If you can't or won't acknowledge it was a mistake, how can you review it?

  • 90.
  • At 07:27 PM on 17 Jun 2007,
  • Meri wrote:

As in any tragedy it is about making the most of it and drawing out the positives.
Perhaps there is a reason why Tom needed to go through this in life. For hardships have a way of showing us who we really are and what we are capable of. I see his situation as an opportunity to offer something more to his community. The suffering he has experienced from losing many of his friends gives him a grief process unlike any other. From being directly involved combined with his past experiences gives him a unique insight in knowing what can be done to bring about change. Life doesn't have to be this way and there will be more youth to come that may lose their way. It has been said men grieve by "doing".
My sympathies to Tom for his loss and remember, in time, this too shall pass.

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