A global focus
"I was very surprised we didn't do the Baby P story."
That was the comment of one of our team when we were reviewing the previous night's programme during our editorial meeting the day after the publication of the report into how Haringey Council in London failed to protect Baby P who was on the child protection register. The boy's mother has pleaded guilty and her boyfriend and a lodger have been convicted of charges relating to his death.
The report was published on Monday and that night the news bulletin which opens our programme of course had a report on the story, but we did not cover it further in the programme, which we led with the story of the announcement by President-elect Obama of his national security team that afternoon.
Our colleague's surprise triggered a discussion amongst us - which is an ongoing one on the programme - about how we cover big British stories.
A little background is needed here to explain why this is an issue for The World Tonight.
The programme focuses mainly on global news - we think it is the main place on daily national BBC news where international stories are reported and analysed. However, we also have a remit to cover major British news and breaking news, which we do. You can read about what we try to do on the programme here.
The challenge - or if you prefer the difficulty - for us is that we aim not to repeat stories or angles on stories which have already been covered on our sister programmes on Radio 4 - Today, The World At One, PM and the half-hour 6 O'clock news bulletin.
The problem we often face with big stories - like the Baby P story - is that there has been a lot of coverage on these programmes and new angles are not always obvious. Hence the debate on how we do them.
The ideal solution is that we think of an interesting angle or an interesting interviewee with a view on the story that has not occurred to our colleagues. When we are at our best, this is what we do. But it's not always that easy.
So another solution - which we adopted on the day of the Baby P story - is not to do any more than have a short report in our news bulletin. The criticism of this approach is that it sends the message that we don't think the story is important.
When we do this, we argue that by the end of the day, our listeners may have heard enough in-depth coverage of the story in question, and they will be happy to have the brief summary of the story in our bulletin and then hear about the other things going on in the world in the rest of the programme.
I'd be interested to know what you think.
Update [Friday 5 December 1100]: Due to legal risks, this thread is now closed to comments.