BBC News director asks staff to keep the pedophilia crisis to itself

Telegraph | Broadcast | Eyes to the right

BBC News Acting Director Fran Unsworth is drawing the scorn of the Internet Tuesday morning after asking the staff not to tweet or talk publicly about the organization's ongoing scandals.

"It would be helpful if some of our problems were not played out publically across social media and in the pages of the national press," Unsworth wrote, according to the Telegraph. "We need a collective and collegiate sense of all pulling together to restore trust in the BBC’s news output."

The full email was reprinted by Broadcast magazine.

The BBC has been reeling from allegations that leaders looked the other way while TV presenter Jimmy Savile molested hundreds of children. Then BBC News recently aired a report falsely accusing a former politician of child sex abuse.

Mark Detre, the internal communications manager for British telecom company Vodafone, blogged about why Unsworth's message was "wrong-headed and self-defeating":

I’ve worked for a few years in Internal Communications, a role which is meant to influence what staff across organisations think and feel. I’ve worked with leaders who want to stop staff talking about certain topics, in the hope that their thoughts, ideas and feelings on that topic will magically disappear. They don’t.

Among the problems with Unsworth's message, Detre writes, is that "It looks like she’s trying to pointlessly stifle discussion and debate," and actually "it’s much better to have those conversations playing out in public, rather than in private. ... She’s not going to stop the conversations happening -- they’ll simply be in hushed pub corners and over dinner tables rather than where she and her staff can see them and respond if needed."

To their credit, many BBC journalists have been trying to address the story as developments occur.

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    Jeff Sonderman

    Jeff Sonderman is the deputy director of the American Press Institute, helping to lead its use of research, tools, events, and strategic insights to advance and sustain journalism.


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