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Wednesday 18 March 2020

Laura Kuenssberg And Science Change

One of the problems that has dogged the BBC of late is an inability to own up when its news and current affairs output gets something wrong: all too often, the Corporation’s first response is to dismiss criticism, become defensive, and appeal to authority. This approach is assisted by other broadcast journalists coming to their aid. But yet another slip, this time in coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic, has taken them back to Square One.
As on more than one previous occasion, it was political editor Laura Kuenssberg who went wrong. She then went wrong again, despite a less than subtle nudge from the health profession, which suggests that straight journalism is proving a challenge right now.
There were still the selective briefings, and there Ms Kuenssberg brought us the latest Westminster gossip: “Precursor to very significant package of measures to help support the economy coming later today, possibly in time for No 10 afternoon press conference or if not in Chancellor's Commons statement at 7pm”. But that is no longer top priority.
The priority was reporting the Covid-19 pandemic properly, and here, she had already been admonished by Richard Horton: “Laura Kuenssberg says (BBC) that, ‘The science has changed.’ This is not true. The science has been the same since January. What has changed is that government advisors have at last understood what really took place in China and what is now taking place in Italy. It was there to see”.
Horton has, for the past 25 years, been editor of The Lancet. Sadly, though, Ms Kuenssberg was not alone in telling us things had changed, as Beth Rigby of Sky News demonstrated: “Why the step change? The facts have changed. As senior govt told me last night: “We’ve had to accelerate. We thought we could put these measures off for another week & push social shielding back a week after that, but we’ve had to bring it forward”.
Author Richard Seymour responded “The facts have not changed. The science has not changed. WHO, and most scientists, are still saying the same thing. The government has only changed its apparent attitude to hundreds of thousands of deaths it predicted. Our journalistic class is a complete failure”. And the criticism wasn’t getting through.
Like that from Nick Tolhurst. “Laura Kuenssberg just now on BBC: ‘The science has changed’. For the record the science of the rest of the world hasn’t changed. The science people were ridiculing yesterday hasn’t changed. The UK Govt understanding of science has changed & so UK govt policy has now changed”. Was anyone listening? Ian Fraser had the answer to that. “Laura again claimed ‘the science has changed’ in a question to Boris Johnson at the Downing Street press conference just now”. Sadly not.
Instead of inventing a change of science that has not happened, maybe Ms K could pay more attention to Richard Horton, especially this from today: “I’m in touch with NHS staff on the frontlines of clinical care. The message is grim. Beds are beginning to fill with patients who have COVID-19, including intensive care beds. Hospitals are overwhelmed in trying to reorganise services. The NHS is behind where it needs to be”.

The situation is crying out for decent journalism, to hold the Government to account and keep the public properly informed. It doesn’t look like Ms K will be providing it.
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Anonymous said...

Kuenssberg and Rigby, tories both, (dead giveaway - "Laura" and "Beth" to Bozo) long ago became liabilities, indeed DANGERS, to democracy let alone "journalism". So are the rest of their motley tory crew.

Having warned many months ago of a looming worsening crisis, I'll now make another: When this tragedy is over, Kuenssberg and Rigby et al will present it as a "victory" and a "triumph of management" for Bozo. Assuming of course the ignorant fat gett and pharma "experts" don't make another apocalyptic fuck-up.

Britain 2020. A nation of suckers fronted by a conman in a suit and deceived by a cabal of Uriah Heep propaganda clerks.

Frankly, we deserve what we get. After all, we let in the gang of thieves, liars and hypocrites. Now there will be five years to reflect on it.

Tony Braisby said...

Then there's this, at about the same time


rob said...

***Bookends revisited***

Old friends, old friends
They sat on their park bench like bookends
Discussing their prospects in view
Not dreaming a virus would derail them
Those old friends
Did you imagine them on a BBC show
Trying to discuss the science superficially
While the virus does spread supernaturally
Much like those from Cambridge Analytically

h/t Paul Simon

Arnold said...

The scary bit is that the Government is in denial and still seems to believe that Brexit can be completed this year. If Brexit was ever a good idea, it isn't now.

Anonymous said...

Dear Zelo ,
The Black Death arguably ended the Middle Ages , when the failure to understand that privilege was no defence for a herd individual , dawned on the public . Am I completely naive to hope that the coronavirus could end neo-Liberalism , or at least the group-think of it’s priesthood ?

David said...

The "science" has changed. It may well have, but the science to which they refer is the psychology inspired musings of the nudge unit. Psychology has an exceptionally bad record of publishing peer reviewed papers announcing findings which cannot be replicated (some where the figures don't add up, literally not figuratively).

There is a world of difference between physics and those sciences which publish if the magic p-value is less than 0.05.

grim northerner said...


Anonymous said...

"The science has changed"

That's up there with "alternative facts".

Hawkayethenu said...

Yet during the Scottish independence referendum when we petitioned the BBC for fair and unbiased reporting we were accused of grievance politics, of sour grapes.
When we complained about the BBC pandering to Nigel Farage it was all Project Fear, the nation isvdick of experts, even when they wheeled him out again as their go to expert on foreign viruses invading the country, it was just more Remainers remoaning.

Different now though, when it you that's being affected by state propaganda.

Now people are dying because of disinformation misinformation being broadcast on the BBC, what?