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Presenters in the field

Mark Popescu | 09:35 UK time, Thursday, 19 April 2007

When the Virginia massacre story broke our first responsibility was to cover the breaking story accurately and as fully as possible. The events appear sensational - but for many it is a personal tragedy which we needed to reflect with care. (For those of us with teenage children at college or university it doesn't take much to imagine the horror for American parents).

BBC One and Six O'Clock News logoOnce we are through the initial phase we gather round the newsdesk and begin discussing how our coverage will develop over the next 24 to 48 hours. I look after the One O'Clock and Six O'Clock News - but our coverage doesn't begin and end with these two bulletins - we must also provide 24-hour cover on two levels for all our outlets including Breakfast, News 24 and the Ten O'Clock News.

Not only must we have reporters working in the field, we must also be able to provide live coverage across a range of output. So we sent our presenter Emily Maitlis. Some say it's a waste of money to do so, but having Emily on location ensures our reporters are free to do their job - finding new information and adding new insight to the story. Emily presented across all outlets - News 24 at noon in the UK, and then the One, Six and Ten O'Clock bulletins while our reporters have travelled around the region, interviewing people, finding new angles and explaining how and why something has happened.

The result is some remarkable reporting from correspondents like Jonathan Beale, who found a licensed Virginia gun dealer selling weapons across his kitchen table. Matt Frei has reported live for the Six and Ten O'Clock News, but has also been talking to new eye-witnesses and gathering their first had accounts. Our coverage of a major breaking story is down to team work - correspondents, presenters, producers and technicians working long hours to keep us abreast of the latest events.


  • 1.
  • At 10:07 AM on 19 Apr 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

BBC presenting is brilliant, and Emma Maitlis is great. So why do you have to screw it all up with nonsense like this :- "The result is some remarkable reports..." ?

Surely 'The results are some remarkable reports..' or 'The result is some remarkable reporting..' ?

  • 2.
  • At 11:59 AM on 19 Apr 2007,
  • John, Devon wrote:

No one disputes that this was a major story, and one needing sensitive handling. But as usual you and the other media went over the top in the reporting of it.

This is probably naive, but isn't your job at the BBC to report the news rather more in proportion to a cool analysis of its true significance? Leave the magazine style approach driven by televisual content and whether the people affected speak English to the tabloids and Fox News. The only really valuable stuff in most of the the reporting, once the intial coverage was done, was the analysis of the gun culture in the USA.

It's not is if there is a lack of other news. Yesterday over 120 people were killed in Iraq, and all of them had grieving relatives just as affected as the families of the Virginia victims. And there is a steady stream of evidence from Afghanistan on the failure of the west to prevail in Helmand. These do of course get some coverage - but only a fraction of the saturation reporting from Virginia.

  • 3.
  • At 12:29 PM on 19 Apr 2007,
  • Stephanie wrote:

Sending Emily Maitlis was a waste of money. Having Matt Frei on the spot is surely sufficient - why have him there if he is not able to do the job. Isn't he? Emily added nothing extra to the report that Matt could not have handled. I really do think that the BBC are becoming sensationalist. It is not at all necessary every single time for a reporter to be "on the spot" in order to give good news coverage. This is especially true about any educational story to have a reporter in a school playground - really we do know what a school looks like!

Oh come on.

The stupidly vacuous American 'culture' teaches their youth to worship the gun, they virtually give the things to newborns and they are seen at any time of the day on TV. Then for some reason the world looks on in feigned amazement when someone goes on the rampage.

Next time this happens, and there will be a next time, can it be scheduled where it belongs - at the end of the bulletin under 'things which could be avoided and are easily predicted'?

The acres of space and hours devoted to all things American compared with the pitifully small amount of coverage of European crime or politics gets and you'll issues get is almost criminal.

  • 5.
  • At 12:54 PM on 19 Apr 2007,
  • simon ward wrote:

Your reporting of this tragedy has been shockingly in favour of gun control. How can you claim to be neutral when you lecture a gun seller, who is doing nothing illeagal, whether he should be selling guns? Who are you to question him in this way? Do you question car dealers when someone runs another over on purpose? All your reporting has been anti gun ownership and all your corresopondants have been repeating the bromide of "questions will now be asked about American's relationship with their guns".

  • 6.
  • At 01:47 PM on 19 Apr 2007,
  • Niall wrote:

More disturbing has been today's follow up reporting of the gunman's video clips etc.

By publicising this you give him the fame and publicity that he craved

There are many disturbed people out there who will see how this evil man has achieved a "successful" outcome and instead of being a pathetic individual he has all of the media dancing to his tune. Such infamy drives these inadequate people and while I dont single out the BBC here, you have just sown the seeds for a copy cat killer. You must have a protocol where you report this man's name only once and there after refuse to refer to him by name. Report one passport style photo and never any video clips. Brief quotes from any suicide note will suffice. In that way you can report responsibly while making it clear you will not be complicit in his crime or any such crime in the future

  • 7.
  • At 02:15 PM on 19 Apr 2007,
  • Mark Phillips wrote:

I have to say how disturbing it has been to see this assassin's face plastered all over the News Front Page ALL day, with guns drawn staring at the viewer. It is very very disturbing, and I do not thank the BBC for having this image constantly brought to my attention.

Maybe the idea is to report 'the story', personally I find this photo illustration of this man's intentions and mindset plays to his original intentions in a way that should not be given sanction by responsible news editors. The reason I would give is this man actually sought to gain as much attention as possible for his acts, and that is exactly what has happened. I find it distressingly ironic that this man is gain this kind of publicity for himself from beyond the grave, as if he were celebrating his heinousness. No such 'front page' coverage has actually been given to the many victims in this, although one story was devoted to the victims.

For goodness sake, get this madman out of our living rooms and out of our heads. What does it benefit us? We cannot prevent the next shooting and everyone knows that the politics of gun laws in the US will not change. It's bad enough reading about him and his actions without having to come face to face with him every time I open your front page.

  • 8.
  • At 03:34 PM on 19 Apr 2007,
  • Michelle wrote:

I'm sorry, but I firmly believe that this story did and does not necessarily warrant continued lead story coverage.

What happened was terrible. But as other people have pointed out, it happened in a country where there is a different attitude to weapons and where it is becoming increasingly evident that the perpetrator was a known risk and, just like when a mentally unbalanced person commits a violent act here, we find out he slipped through the system.

We do need a level of coverage on this story so that our lawmakers and our society can consider if there are lessons we can learn from it. But what I saw on today's One O'clock bulletin showed that today's news agenda was obviously quiet if the second story was the risk of ovarian cancer from prolonged use of HRT. It's not an immediate story, but it does need to be broadcast.

Seriously, I do wonder how the priorities are set on slow news days.

  • 9.
  • At 04:26 PM on 19 Apr 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

Please change your front page pictures of Cho. Your readers in Virginia and Universities worldwide surely don't need to be staring down three gun barrels. Thank you.

  • 10.
  • At 08:49 AM on 20 Apr 2007,
  • Jules Challow wrote:

Come off it, Emily did nothing but link things and repeat things other British reporters had said - you dont need to be on the spot to do linking.

Secondly if this was Iraq and British centred news fair enough send someone ou to the front line, but its not, its international and US centred.

Please dont waste tax payers money or duplicate respources

  • 11.
  • At 02:17 PM on 20 Apr 2007,
  • Joan wrote:

To the Editors of the BBC:
Your use of the video made by Cho Seung - hui can only have been for shock factor and not editorial merit. Being the first disseminator or the fifth does not justify using such pictures. Having comments from experts who have never personally interview the person is really no more than hearsay. It doesn't take a degree to understand this person was unbalanced and the consequences were tragic. These pictures are now in the public realm thanks to news broadcasters, their hurt will now go on forever regardless of the feelings of the victims and their families. Your decision to show this video has cost those you say you took into consideration more misery. The use of the video and any pictures taken from it, only showed your standards to be that of a tabloid magazine, and not a serious news agency.

I still think that the BBC is wasting viewers money sending half the News team to the USA because some nutter has gone bezerk in an Educationa Institution in America. It happens all the time, unlike the News in our own country which is undereported!

  • 13.
  • At 06:45 PM on 20 Apr 2007,
  • Steven Martin wrote:

It's obviously important to have reporters on location. For example Justin Webb has just written an article on Anti-Americanism from Caracas, Venezuela. Although quite how he managed to avoid mentioning a single bad thing the US has done in Central/South America is frankly beyond me.

To Stephanie

Did you not read the above entry??? Extra staff were sent to free up the reporters.

in regards to wasting Tax payers money, maybe people should look at the local governments first before weaping about news coverage

  • 15.
  • At 03:51 AM on 22 Apr 2007,
  • Peter Adams wrote:

I agree that the responsibility of a free press is to report the news. But the amount of news coverage that the young man that carried out his heinous crime in Virgina against unprotected students received borders on insanity. Does BBC as well as the main stream media in the states not realize that this type of glorification of a madman leads to other unbalanced individuals going over the edge? There is enough blood spilled without adding to grim reaper's total in the search for ratings. The media no longer reports the news in much of the world they are creating the news. So much for neutrality.

  • 16.
  • At 12:57 PM on 22 Apr 2007,
  • James wrote:

Why defend your decision to send Emily?

People who say it is a waste of money... do they have any idea of the tiny insignificance of this cost to BBC's operations? People seem to think paying a license fee entitles them to micro-manage the corp's operations.

Less hand-wringing please - this blog is becoming so apologetic and politically correct, who's gonna want to grow up to be an editor?

  • 17.
  • At 02:55 PM on 22 Apr 2007,
  • John Morrish wrote:

I have to agree with all who feel that this was totally over the top irresponsible reporting of a very unfortunate event.
I only hope that the consequences are not as severe as they could possibly be in their effect on the less stable.
Very disappointed in the BBC over this series of articles which I had to switch off !

  • 18.
  • At 07:03 PM on 23 Apr 2007,
  • Gregor Aitken wrote:

I see things like this a complete waste of time and money.

When it was dunblane fair enough, report it and check that everything is being done to prevent such things happening again and make sure nothing was not done to prevent such an individual kiklling again.

But when it is in america why bother.

We know the americans will cover the story well, why not one reporter to essentially present/interprit the american reporting.

Instead you send over the whole kit and kaboodle to find that america has a near lawless gun culture.

Why were so many resources used for such a story.

I am guessing the sensational element is the answer and the fact that the bbc has no interest in any news that sun wouldn't print itself


  • 19.
  • At 10:46 AM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Geoff Hiorns wrote:

I am appalled at the response from Mark Popescu to mine and other people’s valid criticism of the coverage of the Virginia Tech incident. I counted four or was it five different BBC reporters "on the spot" in Virginia and most with the same campus buildings in the background.

Why so many reporters? It was a disgraceful waste of licence payer’s money and to compound this, the BBC has now announced cut backs (possibly even the closure of regional news programmes) due to the less than expected increase in the licence fee, classic!

Tragic as this incident was, the BBC hyped it up and sensationalised it to the exclusion of many other stories and events that dominate and effect our lives in the UK and Europe.

As usual the BBC does not listen to those who pay the wages of this wasteful and in need of change organisation.

Stop spinning your responses and take on board the valid observations and criticisms people take the trouble to contact you with. You really do have a liberal left elitist culture and it is increasingly getting in the way of common sense high quality public broadcasting.

Geoff Hiorns

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