A politician's private life
Ruth Kelly’s decision to send her son to a private school brought an avalanche of emails to the BBC. More than 3,000 of you sent your thoughts on the story – some accusing Ms Kelly of hypocrisy; others supporting her decision as a parent.
But some of you questioned whether the BBC should be doing the story at all, saying that how she organises the education of her children is her own business, and that broadcasting rides roughshod over the interests of the child.
So why did we do it?
I think the answer comes partly in the volume of emails. This story raises all sorts of issues which strike a chord with many viewers, listeners and readers – provision for special needs in schools; whether this works best in mainstream or special schools; how the government’s record on this stands.
But it’s also about the rights and wrongs of a cabinet minister and former education secretary - from a party which champions state education – going private for her own children. In some people this rouses strong passions. As a group of our emailers have observed, it can be seen as the difference between what the powerful say and what they do.
Some of you say that a politician’s private life should remain private. But in this information-rich age, it can be argued that’s a privilege which people surrender when they enter public life.
The parent’s one thing; the child’s another. The BBC has no interest in invading the privacy of any child. Indeed we – like most of the rest of the news media – actively try to protect the privacy of children.
But once a story like this is in the public domain – a decision taken by the Daily Mirror - it’s difficult and probably wrong for us to try to put the genie back in the bottle.
Look at it the other way round – what if the BBC had chosen not to broadcast the story? It’s front page news in most newspapers, the lead on other broadcasters, and all over the blogosphere... and the BBC ignores it... Would that have served our audiences well? Or would it have made you angry that we were in some way protecting the people in power?
Is it not rather our job to set the story in its proper context and tell it in a measured, balanced way, allowing you to make your own judgements?