21
Mar
08

Would you like to know what I think?

Jeff Jarvis is a blogger and he’s really got me thinking on how best WHYS can meet the BBC’s ambition of impartiality. He says it’s time for journalists to come clean about their views. Would it be more honest and more impartial if we told you what we think?

Would you trust the even-handedness of WHYS more if, for instance, you knew if I voted for Tony Blair or not?

At the end of his column about the coverage of the battle between Clinton and Obama, Jarvis writes, “I voted for Clinton in the primaries. As if you couldn’t guess. But at least in my case – unlike that of the journalists covering her – you didn’t have to guess.” I couldn’t believe the impact reading that had on me. As he says, if you read him it’s no surprise, but getting that level of openness is very very rare, and it’s been bothering me ever since.

Our own Justin Webb (the BBC’s North America editor) has also written about this. He argues that in certain circumstances (though certainly not all, and not for BBC staffers) it may not be a bad thing for broadcasters to come clean about where they stand.

A few years ago, the BBC changed its stance on its journalists writing columns for newspapers. There are now stricter regulations after it was felt that it was inappropriate for, in one case, a radio presenter to be expressing opinions on a story which he’d have to conduct an ‘impartial’ interview on in days to come.

The riposte from one of the senior BBC editors at the time was that it is ridiculous for us to pretend that presenters and producers don’t have views and to think they can’t put them to one side when handling a story.

I get accused of bias all the time and I know I’m doing my job well if the critic says I clearly believe one thing when in fact I think the opposite. I never approach a programme with anything other than an ambition to test all the opinions that we hear. Questioning someone I agree with comes as easily as questioning someone I vehemently oppose. But might it be better if I let you judge that?

If everyday when I post the debate, I put at the bottom any relevant opinions I have on the subject would that make our discussions more open, honest and impartial. Would you be in a better position to judge just how impartial we are? I have those views already so in theory nothing should change about how I present.

The BBC is regularly accused of a left-wing bias. Most of us would deny this, but would it be fairer if we revealed who we vote for and what newspaper we buy and then let you decide.

I was talking about this with our most senior news editor earlier this week. Tongue-in-cheek, I suggested I told you just that. She allowed herself a wry smile before saying ‘don’t you dare’. I’m not convinced I should either, but something is still niggling. WHYS has a total commitment to being open, honest and impartial in all our dealing with you from the hour on-air, to the emails we all exchange with you.

Should we go on step further and tell what we all think?


43 Responses to “Would you like to know what I think?”


  1. 1 ZK
    March 20, 2008 at 14:47

    I trust the BBC enough to not need to worry about your personal opinions affecting your reporting.

  2. 2 eric aka eks321
    March 20, 2008 at 15:22

    absolutely. i watch bbc world news america. katy kay is so pro-democrat and anti-republican that she should be a registered lobbyist for the democratic national committee (dnc)! we all know the bbc is biased, even the bbc’s ombudsman admitted it in his 2007 report. the msnbc newsman lee cowan admitted that for the media “it’s almost hard to remain objective” about obama. in a poll conducted after the last us presidential election, it was disclosed that over 90% of journalists in the usa voted for democratic candidates. i think the best way to inject a level of objectivity in your reporting would be for all “journalists” to disclose their biases on every single issue they are reporting about instead of pretending to be neutral. i know that my opinions are purposely “spiked” by opinion programs because i do not buy into the politically correct line. as a libertarian i will continue to offer my view on your blogs. i will back my opinions with facts. in closing, i will add that i do respect the way ros atkins conducts himself on whys.

  3. 3 Justin from Iowa
    March 20, 2008 at 15:48

    Its everyone’s right to express their personal opinion on world issues. That’s why its called “free speech”. So if you want to tell us your opinion, that’s fine as far as I’m concerned. But, for guests on your show and readers and listeners, you must realize that even subconciously that will cause them to interpret your moderation, questioning style, and topic choices through a lens of judgement based on your opinions.

    Personally, if I was a journalist or moderating a forum or blog or radio show which was widely read and prided itself on neutrality, I would keep a sharp distinction between personal opinion and public opinion. Anywhere but on the air, express your opinion however you want. When you get on the air, all business and neutrality.

    Its hard enough keeping discussions on track and well moderated when people accuse each other of bias and get heated. It would be twice as hard if you included accusations against the moderators themselves. Moderators must strive to be neutral so that their right to moderate is respected and accepted by all.

  4. 4 Will Rhodes
    March 20, 2008 at 16:22

    Taking on the point of the BBC being biased I always look at it like this: SO many time you will see in a message “But the BBC won’t publish this because they don’t want this point of view to be aired” or something on those lines. I know that many people put that so they think they are forcing the BBC to publish – which isn’t the case.

    I find the BBC to be impartial – not because of my personal political leanings, as anyone who reads my posts knows that I am left-wing with a bit of the centre thrown in. Yet saying that – I read the BNP website, not because I am about to go all flag-waving England expects all whites to do their duty – it is because I have a philosophy that if you haven’t a clue what you political opponent is doing – how can you counter their argument?

    I think – and please correct me if I am incorrect – that the BBC has to be seen as impartial as possible because it is publicly funded and must show no leaning either way. This is why the BBC is constantly being purported as left. I always find that those on he right do this because their argument rarely holds water, and giving a voice to the opponents of their dogma makes you, by default, a supporter of them.

    When I blog about Nick Clegg I pick out what I find wrong with his party’s findings, I do the same for Labour and the Conservatives. Add to that, I do say when I think something is right with all three hues. What is wrong with that?

    In the US election – I support those who want Obama as president – he is inspirational, I cannot understand why that is seen as a bad thing, Winston Churchill was an inspirational leader in time of war, that is what the country needed at the time – that is what I think the US needs now.

    Being called a liberal in the US is used as an insult – why? That comes down to the need for a leader who can bring all the parts of the US together and speak as one – they need unity.

    As for you Ros – if you wish to speak up and say which political side you fall on – personally I don’t care, I never have cared about which side any broadcaster falls on – they are as human as anyone else and have their opinion, as they should.

    If you want to compromise on any given subject – you could always add “This is what I think…”

    Other than that – keep up the good work!

  5. 5 Xie_Ming
    March 20, 2008 at 16:34

    Absolutely NOT!!

    Ideally, one should not be able to guess at bias at all on the part of a moderator.

    Such an ideal world does not exist.

    The personal release that you would achieve as an editorialist
    would continually be used to haunt you.

    Why not try to counterbalance the customary psychic inflation of media-generated causes by citing others rather than yourself?

  6. March 20, 2008 at 17:53

    Our lack of understanding pertaining to the overall strife in Iraq and the Arab world reminds me far to much of the lack of understanding my beloved country had of the Vietnamese Conflict during which I served as a Corpman/Veterinary Tech. We are not going to accomplish anymore in Iraq, I’m afriad than we did in Vietnam. Far to many good men and women from both countries have died or been maimed. My heart hurts because it may be for little in the history of the world. Hopefully, history will prove me wrong.
    Rev. Dr. Jesse W. Bledsoe

  7. 7 Cheror Jalloh
    March 20, 2008 at 21:08

    I have been listening and reading comments that are sent from listeners around the world against the BBC of being so biased particularly between Israelo-Palestine conflicts in the middle east.The rockets launching by palestinian militants in Israel and the death of Israelis students at a jewish school in Jerusalem never went on well with many which made someone to ask the BBC a question then Andrew white head,a news editor was invited on OVER TO YOU on the BBC World Service to explain the motives behind the mistake.Also,during the Doha debate in QATAR about wethether the muslim world was doing enough to combat extremism and terrorism,BBCWORLD TV kept on repeating over and over again on what had happenend a few days back to those seven jewish students that were murderd by an Arab-Israel,and the BBC made it as if it was a breaking news.but I for one,as a long time listener willnot want to complain too much,because there is no perfection in humanity.It seems that,the BBC is not taking for granted complaints made by listeners over the use of the card board and that is another sensitive issue.Ros outlined his laws and he never respected what he had promised us to moderate comments on the BBC blog.

    Please,you are part of us and we do care much about you and do all the best to meet and arrenge your listenerns concerns,though some of us are not the British taxpayers.I trust you and for that reason I keep on listening to your news bullitins.Thanks to everyone at the BBC World Service staff.Keep it up and bye for now.

  8. March 21, 2008 at 01:33

    Journalists are citizens with the right to vote. They’re entitled to have political views. But it’s better for them to keep them for themselves if they work for a news network like the BBC known for its impartiality. Otherwise they can be a tool of propaganda for the parties they’re affiliated with.

    The best way to show impartiality is to represent different views with equal measures in terms of coverage and timing. When journalists openly show their political leanings, there may be a rivalry among them to represent their favourite parties at best.

    There is no harm if they reveal which political party they belong to. But as to giving their personal opinions, this can make them steer from their job of reporting and presenting different views. A journalist using his/her position to air personal political views is worse than a state media whose aim is to show the government in the best light despite the different dark sides that should be revealed.

    A journalist can be more effective by raising issues and finding people who can tackle them convincingly. This makes him/her win the respect of the audience and political figures across the political spectrum. There is for example BBC TV programme Hard Talk in which challenging questions attract the audience as the presenter promises more challenging questions for the coming guests. Sometimes, the nature of the questions give the impression that the journalist is biased, however it remains up to the interviewee to have the skill to have ready answers without sounding embarrassed or out of touch.

    In the case of WHYS, it’s better to leave it all to the listeners and guests taking part in the show to air their views and to leave it to the audience to make their judgement. There were instances in which WHYS didn’t sound impartial when covering the internal situation in Zimbabwe under Mugabe as almost 80% of the interventions on the show were directed at criticising him. Maybe that was because of the unanimity of those who took part or sent their comments.

    WHYS ( an active and interactive branch of the BBC)hasn’t been and shouldn’t be like state media in countries in which there is no freedom of expression and the interviewers have to “correct” their interviewee(s) or force them to talk along the official line. If they don’t do so they risk reprimand or even being fired. In the case of the BBC, journalists can be summoned if they fail to be impartial, I guess.

    So let the ball of the discussion roll among the contributors and let the moderators (like Ros and the rest of the company) keep their whistle ready to either start or end a debate, without compromising the delicate balance that should be the main feature of the show.

  9. 9 steve
    March 21, 2008 at 13:33

    Anyone ever noticed, that when the BBC, or virtually any new station talks about religion, they always say “the Prophet Mohammed” but would just say Jesus, or Moses, or Abraham? Why the special reverance, especially from a government sponsored entity? how about a uniform standard?

  10. March 21, 2008 at 13:57

    To Steve,
    I think there is no Christian called Jesus. Among the Christians, there are names like Christ, Christian and Christiana. But there no person called Jesus apart from Prophet Jesus . I also don’t think Jews bear the name Moses. Moses is given as a name just to institutions in relation with his teaching or as a reference to him, not to persons.

    Muslims give this name Mohammed to their children. There are hundreds of Muslims who bear this name. So the use of “Prophet Mohammed” is used for distinction not for a special reverence. In other words, there is only one Jesus or Moses we can refer to. But there is not just a single person in the world with the name Mohammed.

    Jesus! I hope you can agree with me.

  11. 11 Gretchen Eldrich
    March 21, 2008 at 13:58

    I have a great respect for the BBC as an institution, you have very high standards and are very professional in everything you do. As such, I would be inclined to welcome knowing what the commentators feel on various issues, but at the same time I think it would be a very bad idea.

    One of the things that is causing the decline of news coverage from US outlets like CNN (and the long since declined standards of places like Fox News) is that you do in fact know the opinion of most of the commentators, and of the organization overall. The featured newscasters on Fox, everyone knows they favor conservative and Republican party views, and the formerly neutral CNN is increasingly viewed as liberal and democratic leaning, especially with featured newscasters like Lou Dobbs, who is very sarcastic in his presentation and makes no effort to appear neutral. Yet, these broadcasts are not presented as an editorial segment, or opinion journalism, but instead are featured news hours in prime time. CSPAN remains as one of the only remaining News and Politics information sources in the US who present and do not slant the information. News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS is fairly neutral though other shows on PBS are decidedly liberal/opinion based.

    This can certainly be entertaining, but it gets in the way of the news. People tune to the broadcast that they feel is going to stroke the stories the way they like to see it stroked and spun, and people are not exposed to a spectrum of views that would encourage examination of the issues.

    If BBC went that route you would experience what news orgs experience in the US: interviews would be combative, figures would refuse to appear on a show they felt was going to be unfavorable, information would be sacrificed for spin. I perceive BBC (at least as I hear it in the BBC America segment on NPR) as being equally tough on all comers, and not slanted in any discernable direction. Please keep that crisp neutrality and though we may be curious, withhold your personal opinions.

  12. 12 Ros Atkins
    March 21, 2008 at 14:08

    Steve and Abdelilah – I appreciate the importance of your discussion about Mohammed and how the BBC refers to him, but let’s leave it here for this post. let’s stick to the principle of us sharing what we think, rather than discuss one issue which isn’t even directly do with the issues I’ve raised. Steve, your point is about editorial policy and slightly off topic here.

  13. March 21, 2008 at 14:26

    I agree with Justin in Iowa – if we are open with our political or ideological leanings then it will colour how listeners hear what we say. It would not be good for the open nature of the debates we have here if every question or topic was scrutinised for an ulterior motive.

  14. 14 John in Salem
    March 21, 2008 at 14:53

    As a reporter you can’t pretend to be unaffected by the stories you cover, but as a moderator for a forum or debate you need to remain impartial.
    I remember when Walter Cronkite gave his opinion on the evening news that Vietnam was a mistake and that we couldn’t win, and we found out later that President Johnson felt that that remark was the major turning point in the war because it meant that it no longer had the support of the people.
    I would love to know your opinions on Iraq, Ros, but I’m afraid that saying them on the air would disqualify you from ever moderating a discussion on the subject in the future.

  15. 15 steve
    March 21, 2008 at 14:56

    I really don’t think journalists should be telling us their personal opinions on things. Just like a lawyer in a courtroom absolutely shouldn’t give their personal opinion, as it might differ from the interest of the client. You can tell a media outlet’s bias by the stories which they cover, they don’t have to come out and state an opinion. There’a far left radio station in washington, DC, where they never really state an opinion in the news, but all the news stories they cover are about labor issues, about alleged racism, about only complaints against the government, etc. You don’t really need to come out and state it. There is another station in DC, WAMU, which is an NPR affialiate, that once had a Arab-israeli “dialogue” on the Kojo Nnamde show, where there were two Palestinians, both very anti Israel, and an Israeli that was incredibly left wing. There was no Israeli on the center or the right. So the show was entirely about how Israel was wrong.. So you can see biases that way too, based upon the balance in the guests. They made no attempt to get anyone from the center of the right, though sometimes on shows like WHYS you hear that they invited people from particular viewpoints but declined. I heard some people complain about the guests on the multiculturalism show, being all stacked in favor, and there weren’t any that were against or at least questioned it, at least according to my memory of the complaints.

  16. 16 Brett
    March 21, 2008 at 15:11

    The right will scream leftist-bias when the right is under scrutiny in the media. The left with scream rightist-bias when the left is under scrutiny in the media.

    When you call someone out on being wrong, even if it is backed by facts, one of the first things they will claim is bias. The exact same as people screaming about racism as a default when opposed by a side with cultural, racial, idealogical differences.
    The BBC is doing just fine. Keep up the good work.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  17. March 21, 2008 at 15:48

    No, not really. Not because it’s you, Roz, but because I want straight forward reporting of facts, and incidents. Not some, and today it’s “EVERY, reporters opinion, or feelings about the subject. I am supposed to be making up my own mind about these things. Not letting Limbaugh, or O’Reilly, or even you, Roz (and I like you), decide what I should be feeling and doing. Journalism isn’t ‘journalling’ anymore; it’s become blogging, and you tube, TMZ, and all that other crap that stains my outlook, and is prejudicial.
    thanks anyway, Roz.

  18. 18 Dave
    March 21, 2008 at 16:36

    I would certainly hope that you, Ros, have an opinion on the issues that are opened for discusion. The role of facilitator and commentator are very different. I suggest that you call in to another talk show and express your views. There certainly are plenty of them about.
    I think that wil ferguson hit it.
    Dave
    Portland OR

  19. 19 viola anderson
    March 21, 2008 at 16:59

    News and opinion must be separated. The question is: what is news? It is something that happened. It is not why something happened. Why something happened belongs in the editorial or commentary area. I agree that journalist can be biased. Journalists are human, after all. Even as only humans, not journalists, we need to to strive for objectivity. Only through objectivity can we catch glimmers of truth.

    Mr. Boukili, Jesus is a common name in Mexico.

  20. 20 Scott Millar
    March 21, 2008 at 17:18

    Unfortuantely I think your views are not relevant, while I would be curious, the public certainly doesn’t need to know for your show to be objective.

    Quite frankly most philospohically intelligent people and organizations tend to be liberal. Any organization that is trying to be inclusive will be liberal by definition of what it means to be liberal.

    How could you possibly be conservative and also claim to be objective, open-minded and inclusive when being a conservative means you have made up your mind on so many issues. For example this is a dictionary defition of conservative: “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change” – you can’t be an open, objective, for all people, an inclusive media outlet and be conservative – it wouldn’t make sense! This idea might seem simple but apparently the entire world has been unable to grasp it yet.

    People compare liberal views with conservative views as if they were comparing white roses and red roses, when the comparison is more along the lines of a red rose to a red barn. The fundamentals and implications of what each term actually means are so different.

    This idea entirely relates to a guest (I think) you had on your program, Susan Jacoby – in her most recent book she talks about “dumb objectivity,” which is exactly what this is idea of liberal vs conservative is. Having a creationist on a program with an evolutionary biologist is not objectivity and should not be what the BBC strives for.

    -Portland, Oregon

  21. 21 Chris B
    March 21, 2008 at 17:26

    I listen to you and the BBC because you ARE very good at keeping your personal views at bay, good at remaining professional and spending you skill on keeping the discussion on track, and fair.

    It’s just too slippery to approach it in any other fashion. That doesn’t mean I don’t value your opinion, just that your show isn’t the venue for your voice. That would be a different show, ‘Ros Atkins Has his say’ and one I would listen to that too.

    Chris B Los Angeles

  22. 22 margaret taeko boyer
    March 21, 2008 at 17:42

    My answer to the question is NO. Probably because I am almost a century old(!) and received strict training in basic reporting in the 1950s. So, I specialized in human (interest) stories, as my mentor Alistair Cooke used to emphasize without sounding like a preacher.
    News Casters– News Readers–New Story Presenters–News Editors–Program Producers. I would like them to describe FACTS in a simple style (for us radio listeners).
    Then, From Our Own Newsroom can be created so that above personnel can express the HUMAN(E) side of those ‘hard news’. .

  23. 23 melinda
    March 21, 2008 at 17:49

    Hi Ros – i think that if your opinion is posted together with the topic it will influence your listeners/responders. However, you certainly should be allowed to express your personal opinion – what if you used other than a BBC e-mail address to send your opinion to all your listeners/readers/bloggers as you do your daily e-mail. i would think a lag time between the daily e-mail with the topics and the next day with your opinions would allow your public to express their own opinions without regard to yours and yours would not reflect that of the BBC…or

    Just post on the blog as we do using your middle name or something (just let us know what it is…we then would have to hunt it down if we are interested!) Good luck and i hope you’ll let us know what you decide to do. Cheers. melinda

  24. 24 Justin from Iowa
    March 21, 2008 at 17:51

    Ros, you have the right to express your own opinions. But remember that our rights often come with consequences. Public figures often find that their “rights” aren’t as thorough as compared to your average joe, because of their place in the political or public scene.

    Look at what happenned to Imus in the US. He made a bad racial joke, which anyone else not in the public eye would just have been glared at or ignored, but being a public figure he was held to a higher standard.

    Similarly look at politicians, or religious figures. Obama’s pastor for example, his opinions in anyone else would just be one person’s opinions, in a person of public power they become something more and have far reaching consequences.

    So if you feel the need to express your opinion while being a moderator and host, it is your right. But be forewarned that there are always consequences when public figures express themselves on an issue, whether they intend them or not.

  25. March 21, 2008 at 23:53

    Yes, most certainly I would! The downside of impartiality is a convenient silence, isn’t it? By all means, be impartial. As reporters, where reporting of news, events, etc. is concerned, personal opinion cannot enter; as an individual, as a citizen equally as involved as anyone else, letting your personal views be known puts you on the same hot seat as everyone else who dares speak. Even judges on the bench cannot remain impartial. They must not influence the jury, right, but when all is said and done, impartiality is validated only by strict justice. In this case, there is a downside: you encourage listeners and readers to speak out, while yourself remaining silent. We stick out our neck with our views and opinions, but you keep yourself silent and safe. To which I’d say, no go! Let BBC itself speak out and stand ON the line. That’s what a newspaper editorial allows, don’t it? Yes, Ross, do tell us what YOU think. Then tell us what is BBC’s thought on the issue, any issue. You’d raise the ‘blog’s’ standing a notch or two, to true dialogue!

  26. 26 George USA
    March 22, 2008 at 01:28

    Ross

    Do not do it, not now, not ever.

    BBC to me is the memory of a Short Wave Radio with the tones chiming and the announcer stating in an even voice- This is the BBC London or This is the BBC World Service.

    With sweat running down my face I leaned forward eagerly in some far flung place to hear the news of the world in even voice and even words.

    I was always fascinated by the even understated presentation of the most violent and troubling events. The very wording was magnificently understated but conveyed clearly the serious matters.

    When that introduction began I could feel tension fall from me: I was about to hear the BBC London.

    “Steady” is the exact word, spoken loud and clear, a pilot uses to the foreign able body seaman at the wheel to guide the ship through busy narrow channels to port.

    It is spoken in a very stylized manner- “Stead-yyyyy”.
    The first sylable is strongly accented and quick and almost a shout, the second drops an octave in tone, half or less the volume and drifts away to a whisper.
    It is always spoken in the exact same manner.

    Over coffee and a sandwich the pilot may talk of anything with the Captain and officers in the galley.

    But when he stands on the bridge guiding the helmsman to port he gives clear firm orders and repeats “Steady” at the slightest sign of nervousness of the man steering the vessel.

    He has no place expressing opinion to confuse, only crisp clear words with one clear meaning.

    ….

    Someone mentioned Cronkite on that fateful day stating Viet Nam was over.

    I heard it live.

    Cronkite was an even handed man reporting clearly and without bias.

    It was precisely because of that: when he stated the obvious, that was the end of the matter, though the war dragged on. The nation was torn apart, literally in flames, strategy failed, and it was stating the truth.

    That is an exceptional moment, only the 40 years of non-bias validated as truth.

    Ros it must be frustrating not to vent your opinions.

    The newsman or woman gathers far greater insight into matters than the public.

    He may see the truth of matters more clearly than most.

    Clear even voice and words-they guide the ship to port.

    They also report events best.

    Never discuss your personal views publicly.

    You forgo that to stand in the shoes you have on at BBC.

  27. 27 zeroKnots
    March 23, 2008 at 08:15

    Nope, you should go the full 9 yards and hear what we think.

    I weak step towards transparency will be seen as posturing and do more damage than good.
    Same artifice that created distrust in the first place.
    Everyone can imagine how easy transparency in the media would be, and the vacuum where it should exist is down in the millitore by now. Media is collapsing in general as more direct routes to source data are found and presentation of it is becomming more professional.

    I notice the BBC uses the word BUT as some sort of boolean logic.
    They ingraciate themselves to one side of an issue just to counter bias. Everything after the BUT function is their real agenda.

    In an IF expression, the options are AND & OR. There is no BUT function. 🙂

    Sorry, but if that’s someone’s idea of “balance”, we’d all prefer the raw data to perform our OWN functions on.

    Really want respect for aggressive persuit of transparency?
    Stop moderating every damn one of MY perfectly legitimate stances which _I_ put effort into writing.
    ALL other news and editorials do the same.
    I can’t be the only person who feels the AUDIENCES take is far more important to measure what is “bias”.
    Sound bitter, do I? That from being a consistently abused advocate of impartiality. And from knowing how important unbiased dissemination is in any democratic process.

  28. 28 bjay
    March 23, 2008 at 09:26

    Would you like to know what I think?

    NO!

    I do want you to make me think !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Suffice it to say why I do highly regard the Radio-Broadcasting.

    Give my thoughts a free rain.

    If you want me to know, then I want to listen your counter part, as well.

    bjay connotation with accent.

    Ros, Have Good Eastern!!!

  29. March 23, 2008 at 18:58

    Ros,

    I think that on all topics you can state the issue, then in a humble almost questioning way give your honest opinion on it.

    Actually, if your take on an issue or situation is given, It might generate thought and ideas in an even more dramatic manner.

    The bottom line would be your ending assessment. Whether the arguements offered had convinced you to change your opinion or whether you think your stand is even more valid than first stated. Sorry, the arguements given were good, but have not caused you to change your original assessment.

    Or…..you can say you are human, and had not thought about some of the good points brought up by fellow citizens of the world and make you want to study and quest to find out more about a rather complicated situation/issue.

    Then post your thoughts on the written statements that always are ongoing after the show.

    troop

    Nehalem, Oregon

  30. 30 Linda
    March 23, 2008 at 20:31

    I trust BBC far more than American radio or TV. We all know where the journalists stand on issues and bias is blatant. While I might have curiosity toward your or another journalists opinions, I will admit it will affect how I listen to the program. Once the moderators opinions are known – then the moderator loses his/her neutrality and becomes the target of participants.

    You have a right to your opinions, beliefs and ideas. It would be sad to see an excellent program compromised by having people sitting there listening wondering if questions asked, guests picked and callers screened would intentionally reflect your own views. Maybe they do – but I don’t want to ruin a good debate by having pre-conceived notions about the moderators input. And it would happen, it’s human nature. 😦

  31. March 24, 2008 at 01:27

    The more honesty in the chain-of-command called journalism, the better. Imperfect, but at least we are less misled. Traditionally, all in “lower” chains of command (i.e. here, journalists), have had to subordinate their humanity to the hierarchical norms sent down from “on high” (i.e. here, editors and owners). If they didn’t, they were “weeded out”. Today, the game of journalism begins on the foundation where journalists have to have the right “internalized values”, and if they don’t, they find themselves on paths similar to Gary Webb and many others forced to fend for themselves when it truly matters. Thus, all you nice journalists are “left, center, and right” within the stupidity of colonization as usual, where ideas and truths beyond the limits of so-called “freedom” aren’t even considered as “reputable” and so on and so forth; and since they don’t “fit” within the prescribed “right, centre, left” scenario, then they’re out.

    By the way, this idea that “we” readers and such “set the agenda”–what a farce! You take topics that *agenda setters* set and then tell the public that *they* somehow set the agenda! What lies!

    The BBC is “nice” to the liberal game players of colonization (not that being “nice” to the centre and right would be any different) and remains steps ahead of such naive simpletons, appearing to be “objective” while confining the limits of human responsibility by playing as though promoting contexts to “news” is not your “job”! Who gets to define these foundations upon which you build your so-called objectivity?? Not any democratic form, that’s for sure!

  32. 32 Dushka
    March 24, 2008 at 18:10

    I agree with Alma Cristina! I like to know journalists personal views, because this allows me to form an opinion on the news they are reporting. However, journalists should not pepper their articles or reports with their personal views unless they are editorial. I’d like to know what reporter so and so thinks about a given issue but I don’t want that information while getting the five o’clock news. If I am willing to investigate who owns the news agency so I can form an opinion on where the news is coming from, I am more than willing to look into any given journalist so I can see what the person who is giving the news thinks. The question, can any one person be truly impartial? Truly and honestly? I don’t think so. Anyone with a little bit of imagination can play devil’s advocate and present a counter perspective, but that is not the same as being impartial. Impartiality is hard to come by and when political views and interests are at stake, especially when such a powerful tool as the media is being used, impartiality goes out the window. It is up to us (the public at large, the world’s citizens) to think for ourselves and not just take the digested, processed information that the media gives us, as the only truth.

    PS- As a side note, the comment made by Abdelilah Boukili from Marrakesh, Morocco, as to there not being any Christians named Jesus; I suggest you inform yourself first before making such sweeping statement. Jesus is AN EXTREMELY COMMON NAME among Christians, in particular Catholics. An example, more than ninety percent of Mexicans are Catholic and Jesus is commonly used when naming boys in Mexico.

  33. 33 John in Germany
    March 24, 2008 at 20:08

    Hi Ros.
    No i would not like to know what you think, and it would not bee good for us if we knew what you at BEEB thought. You are in charge and must be seen to be totally free from bias.

    It is OK if everyone knows which way i think, ,if LEFT, right, or MIDDLE. we do not have to appear to be neutral, that is what makes the whole situation interesting.

    Everyone has a boss, and we all know that memo’s pass around at times, or the more friendly suggestion at the office party “Of course we know we must deal with this Easter Egg problem, but the bosses son-in-law is a chicken, and he just happens to produce Easter eggs. Or the gentle remark in the board room “When are the assessments due?, Mr personal Manager”.

    I have just spent some time in bed nursing an infection that knew no borders, and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to listen to the BEEB. Please stay as you are. keep up the good work, and try to look into our minds and what we think.

    One thing please treat Islam as all other religions and don’t spend to much time thinking if this or that offends. You could only be neutral if you treated all Religions the same. don’t you think all religions are due the same treatment? the other are of course more tolerant. We have a Catholic Deacon that tells Nun and Priest jokes at carnival, and no one has wanted his liver for doing it. Not even the Bishops.

    Imagine if we knew what was going on in the minds of the Hamas people, so much hatred would make us wish we were with our maker! , who ever he may be.

    Closing time, still a bit weak, Hope you all had a very nice Easter if you celebrate it, if not a good weekend.

    John in Germany

  34. 34 George USA
    March 24, 2008 at 21:50

    What the hey.

    I was only ‘joshin’.

    Go ahead, get on the bandwagon.

    Spill you guts: flaunt your views.

    Fox is always looking for new angles.

    They might give you a whopping salary for biases on a pole, waving overhead like a wigway signalman of old.

    Wave personal views, biases, prejudices and don’t just wave them flaunt them with arrogance (see Rush Limbaugh for details).

    British accents sell here in the USA.

    Cash in.

    ( or not- what profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul )

  35. 35 Selena
    March 24, 2008 at 23:01

    To the people here who do not want to know what moderators think, please think again. The whole point of a discussion is to hear all opinions and that includes the opinion of Ros, as far as I am concerned.

    We need to get past regarding the opinions of persons as more valid, simply because they belong to an organization such as the BBC. We need to look at the warts of all organizations. The BBC is no more authoritative than a lesser profile organization, no matter how much we might like to think so.

    Transparency is an overused word but it may be appropriate to say that transparency is a word that could be applied here. Moderators who are open and transparent in their views could help dismantle the bandwagons.

    Another point, posts should not have to be approved. What is that, if not censorship?

  36. 36 VictorK
    March 25, 2008 at 12:04

    We should be able to expect that professionalism will trump personal opinions, so there shouldn’t be any need to know what journalists on WHYS think.

    But bias isn’t always just a question of pushing a political line. I think that to the extent that WHYS could be accused of bias it’s (1) occasional and not at all characteristic, (2) related to specific issues rather than a general political stance, and (3) is probably something that you don’t fully appreciate yourselves, because it forms part of the BBC’s cultural universe and value system (liberal, humane, progressive, enlightened, wishing to promote goodwill amongst peoples and communities, etc. But not everyone takes it for granted that these positions are all and always good things).

    One could draw up a triple list with the headings: ‘BBC Likes/Sympathises With’, ‘BBC Dislikes/Doesn’t Sympathise With’ and ‘BBC is Impartial About’. Most attentive WHYS regulars would have little trouble in assigning a place to the following items: multiculturalism, ‘Bush’, Fidel, Bill Clinton, aid to the third world, extraordinary rendition, Iraq, the UN, the EU, Islam, racism, Christopher Hitchens, gay rights, feminism, religion, Geert Wilders, the AU, the Palestinians, Israel, Tibet, the Republican Party, environmentalism, the Roman Catholic Church, living on a dollar a day, abortion rights, anti-colonialism, social justice, capitalism, universal health care.

    I would have placed only one of those items under the ‘BBC is Impartial’ heading – and I don’t consider myself a professional BBC-hater. At least three of the items have been treated with some measure of bias on WHYS itself (Dershowitz, Castro, multiculturalism). Some issues, I feel, are not debated at all, and are as a result shielded from public criticism (or when they are debated care seems to be taken to ensure that the interlocutors all take the same view). Some, when debated, involve a use of language (rather than an expression of opinion) that taints one side of the debate and privileges the other (even something as apparently insignifcant as calling the Cuban dictator ‘President’ Castro or ‘Fidel’ – as if he were a much loved uncle of WHYS – while routinely referring to ‘Bush’, a suitable label for a man who had murdered WHYS’s much loved grandmother and was cleared by a Florida jury).

    There is bias, in all likelihood unintentional, in failure to ask the right questions (e.g. about China’s claim that Tibet has always been a part of China) or in letting false answers or false assumptions go unchallenged (for example, some African bloggers regularly and virulently attack the West for the slave trade, apparently unaware that slavery was a universal practice across all of Africa and that there would have been no slave trade with the West in the absence of Africans eager and willing to capture and sell other Africans. But the impression is allowed by WHYS to develop over time that slavery – like colonialism – was a uniquely Western crime, despite that impression being quite at odds with the facts).

    What I would ask of WHYS is not to pry into the opinions of journalists but always to have a properly balanced set of studio guests (which is usually but not always the case), to make sure that the guests you select can represent their respective positions competently (another potential avenue of bias), and not compromise a particular view (‘BBC Dislikes’) by doing what you did on one occasion and having, as I recall, a member of the Ku Klux Klan on to speak in its favour (really – what were you thinking?).

  37. 37 John in Germany
    March 25, 2008 at 13:59

    Whoa old Horse.

    Any journalist working for any organisation, should be judged for what he does, no plus points for who he is, and what organisation. And that is what i hope we do. No fan clubs, star allures. and what have we got?: BEEB.

    i stopped looking at commercial news years ago, not because of the reporters, but because of the presenters, and the owners.

    Viktor is right, a trip up is allowed, but please not giving extremists, a world wide medium to distribute their dirt. A bit like one of the fast food boys, using and advertising cloned beef in the burger.

    As far as i am concerned You at the BEEB can do anything, and think anything you like as long as it is within the LAW. And as long as the standards are as high as at the moment. We will notice if someone is tending to let their personal thoughts slip into their work.

    Here we go I must say that some of the ladies tend to get a bit high with the people they are interviewing. (cant say i detected any feminism though, just a little (“shut up lying, and get some facts on the table”).

    Times have changed. My dad used to read the Express, and he was as labour as it went. So one day i asked him why?. “Its like this son, the old boy (the gent where he worked for the extras) brings out the beer, sits down, and chats about conservative things, don’t want to upset him, and the Times is too expensive”. My dad listened to the radio from the day on when mum came home with one given to her by her employer, and was well informed. Just wanted to say, never knew what dad really thought, but always got a fair answer to any question. And one thing we always knew , he loved us.

    Peace to you all
    John in Germany

  38. 38 Roy
    March 27, 2008 at 07:53

    it has been claimed that young people could be influenced by their peers and their favorite pop group movie star etc,without thinking for themselves.If that is the case,could news readers and the media influence the people in the same way and the opinion of those employed to inform the public of the facts of any news story may biase individual thinking,after all there are lots of adults that have a favorite news program because they like its news readers and the actual news items become secondary in their thoughts untill a comment is made which appears to be the opinion of the presenter of the program (food for thought)

    R.D.Smith

  39. March 31, 2008 at 22:25

    In terms of credibility I don’t distinguish between what I see and hear on the BBC and what my neighbour may tell me about what he has seen and heard first hand. My neighbour is being as good a journalist as any.
    A journalist who claims to be impartial should be given a very wide berth, especially if it is a corporation’s motto.
    I watch BBC news with a dose of mild cynicism because I know a lot of the stuff they pump out into the ether comes from a single agency source, which is unchecked and repackaged as reliable material.
    As far as political leanings go, if I wanted to be picky I rather think that Channel 4 is ahead by a nat’s whisker in the originality stakes.
    On the whole the BBC tries to be balanced but as a public institution it is asphyxiated by meddling civil servants.

  40. April 3, 2008 at 00:17

    I have been trying for years to get the editor of our local weekly newspaper, the Eugene Weekly, to report fairly and honestly on our local Oregon Country Fair rather than do their annual promotion. This year I finally got a dialogue going with the editor, who did not remember letters I’d written that he’d printed re: abuse at the fair. He also said he was afraid that an honest article about the fair would get the fair shut down by the local DA.

    He said then that their paper did not pretend to be unbiased. But it does not say that anywhere in the paper; the paper presents itself as journalism not opinion.

    I say whatever you are doing, be honest about it. Admit when you have a bias. Be open to changing your mind.

    And I agree that the best thing for a “real” journalist to do is not to answer questions but ask them. Don’t leave us with an answer; leave us pondering what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.

    As far as this show, sometimes I feel the questions are too either/or when their is room for a multitude of views. But that doesn’t happen too often.

    I like to know when I’m reading or listening to journalism and when it’s opinion. I thought the job of a true journalist was to see all sides but that is a lot to ask when the topic is intense.

    A disclaimer is a good thing; for instance, “I have a stake in this topic. I was affected deeply by this topic.” I can respect that.

  41. April 3, 2008 at 09:18

    I wrote a blog post on this issue in February. I don’t have an answer but here are my thoughts.

    There are two fundamental problems that face the BBC when they use blogs. The first concerns the competing identities of the BBC.

    Is the BBC a ‘Corporation’ or is it a ‘Public Service Broadcaster’?

    If it is the former, then there is no reason why BBC journalists who blog should not present a BBC line on their blogs. In practice, that might mean liaising with the press office to ensure that certain confidential information was not blogged about – eg internal disagreements, editorial errors etc.

    If the BBC is the latter, then BBC blogs could and perhaps should be used as a way of providing greater openness and accountability.

    Personally I think openness is the way to go. Not least, because if the BBC doesn’t do it, the danger is that somebody else will. The mainsteam media can get into all sorts of trouble if it is even perceived to be hiding certain information from an audience in the digital age.

    I suppose the real debate is just how open can any organisation be and still function? There must be a line somewhere.

    The second problem is the notion of impartiality – a founding principle of the BBC. In his book, Can We Trust the BBC?, ex-BBC journalist Robin Aitken argues that the idea of impartiality at the BBC doesn’t stand up, suggesting that every journalist brings a certain set of assumptions, and prejudices unavoidably to their work. (In academic speak, I think the postmodern challenge is finally reaching the profession of journalism.)

    Everything is relative though – the BBC is not Fox News. The attempt to remain impartial surely has some value even if absolute impartiality is unachievable.

    Much successful blogging rests on partiality. It works because opinions are expressed, people tend to be open about their viewpoints and considered/heart-felt/intelligent /angry/vitriolic/pointless/ill-informed (delete as appropriate) debate takes place.

    The blogging style and tone that appears to be most successful at the moment doesn’t fit with the BBC’s guidelines, or ethos.

    If Rory Cellan-Jones were to write a technology blog post suggesting that the Mac is better than the PC, a few eyebrows might be raised. But imagine a similar blog post written about Israel and Palestine or, for the sake of impartiality(!), Palestine and Israel.

    A radical solution would be to throw ‘impartiality’ out of the window but do taxpayers really want the BBC to become overtly opinionated? And, of course, the solution is rather irrelevant given that it can’t do so in any case because it would be illegal under current broadcasting regulations.

    The other solution is for the BBC to use blogs in ways that enhance the content they provide and facilitate debate. Arguably, the BBC’s most successful blogs have been those that actively invite audience participation (Newsnight, PM, Have Your Say) and thus a sense of ownership in a programme.

    This method allows the BBC to retain a stance of ‘due impartiality’ while enabling the audience to provide the controversial and necessarily partial content which makes for a success blog.

  42. 42 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    April 9, 2008 at 20:03

    Hi, Ros and everyone! 🙂

    I’m sure journalists have many things to say because you have loads of information that people do not know, and also you may have many interesting points of view about all these matters. Nevertheless, I don’t think you should never say your opinion on air, since it may cause missunderstandings. Sorry! The fact is that your role is to show the information and set the space for discussion – like this one, which is wonderful 🙂 -, but if you show you are not partial – as usually happens in my country 😦 -, people will not believe in the info you give because they will consider you are favouring just one part or that you are just showing what you want them to know, not what they have to know. In Colombia, unbiased information has lead to terrible situations and conflicts… Also, people will never say “Xx said and thinks this…” but “The BBC man (for instance) said…”. However, a blog is different because it’s a kind of ‘personal public space’, but if you do so you must set a limit because, anyway, you’re a public figure and still a moderator.

  43. 43 Dennis
    May 11, 2008 at 19:22

    I trust the BBC 100%

    Dennis~Madrid, U.S.A.


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