Neil Midgley On Woolwich And The Media Revolution

mobile_news08:18 Friday 24th May 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: One face dominates the front page of this morning’s papers. The front page of the Times, the front of the Daily Mirror, the front of the Daily Mail, and in glorious technicolour on the front of the Sun this morning. It’s the face of a young soldier in a red uniform, Drummer Lee Rigby, brutally murdered in broad daylight on the streets of Woolwich. .. Fresh video footage has emerged of the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack. You can see one of the suspects charging armed police before being shot. The second suspect appears to have raised his handgun. More shots were fired, and he too drops to the ground. The two men remain under armed guard in separate hospitals this morning. They’ve been named as Michael Adebolajo who’s 28 and originally from Essex, and Michael Adebowale, 22 and from Greenwich. Detectives will question them as soon as they are well enough. Both men were known to security services, but were no longer under investigation. So far, six properties have been searched. Another two people, a man and a woman, have also been arrested, and Parliament will now investigate what the security services knew about the two main suspects. We can speak to media expert Neil Midgley, who joins us this morning. Neil, morning.
NEIL MIDGLEY: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: This appears to be a fast developing investigation.
NEIL MIDGLEY: Well it does, and of course the media in all of this have to be very much on our toes, in terms of what we report and when we report it. And obviously there has been some criticism of the gory video that’s been seen on some news bulletins, and stills of it in some of the papers.
PAUL STAINTON: Well I have to admit I was taken aback when I was watching ITV News the other night when they played that, a: without .. a: they played it, the man spouting various things and holding the weapons with bloodied hands, b: they didn’t black out his face, which I just found .. a: I found it very disturbing, and then as a journalist I thought, hold on a minute.
NEIL MIDGLEY: Well I can understand why you would have a visceral reaction to that, because it was deeply distressing footage. And obviously ITV knew that this was deeply distressing footage before they broadcast it, and had to make a decision about that. Clearly if ITV hadn’t broadcast it, then in this day and age somebody else would have broadcast it, or it would have turned up on line. It would have turned up on YouTube, or it would have turned up on Twitter or both. And we saw that with some very distressing images from the Boston Marathon attacks a few weeks ago. And I think why ITV were right to broadcast it, I don’t think you can just get away with saying well, if we didn’t somebody else would, because obviously there has to be some professional journalistic ethics in determining what proper news organisations disseminate. What I think was important was that this was new behaviour. This was genuine news. We haven’t seen people behaving like this on the streets of Britain I think ever before. And while it was right to hold back the most gruesome images of the poor dead soldier lying in the street for example, I think it was important to show what happened in the aftermath, given that the video was available, for the simple reason that we as a country have to come up with a response to this. And if we don’t know precisely what happened, then we can’t come up with a properly informed response
PAUL STAINTON: It was all played out, all of this really, on social media as well, wasn’t it? People were filming things, people were posting things, It was horrific, but incredible at the same time.
NEIL MIDGLEY: Yes. I think it was a very difficult balancing act for the rolling news channels on Wednesday afternoon, because clearly from their helicopters at least, and from sources on the ground, they very quickly were able to see that there was some very gruesome things happening, or had happened . And of course as you say things were happening on Twitter, video taken in Woolwich that is probably easier to verify than video that might have been taken say in Syria. But what happens on Twitter, what people say on Twitter, is not necessarily accurate. And so the news organisations were wrestling with the duty obviously to be as quick as they could be with the story, at the same time as maintaining a professional level of taste and decency, and accuracy.
PAUL STAINTON: Neil, we’ve got to leave it there, but thank you very much. Neil Midgley, media guru, appreciate your time this morning. A difficult day on many levels for many many people. A difficult story to cover as well for many people. And I know a lot of journalists, hard journalists who’ve been working in the business for a lot of years, who were deeply affected by that story about the man, the soldier who was brutally murdered in Woolwich.