The tragic story of a good man brought down by a basic lack of journalistic curiosity

Entwistle stunned Humphrys by revealing he 'was out' when Newsnight aired

If it was curiosity that killed the cat, then it was surely a lack of that most basic of journalistic instincts that did for George Entwistle, who will go down in BBC annals as the organisation's shortest-serving Director-General.

His reluctance to know the story, apparently preferring the information vacuum of an insulated management bubble, was astonishing to colleagues in BBC News. "You have no natural curiosity?" asked an incredulous John Humphrys on Saturday morning as he grilled Entwistle on his failure to spot the danger of Newsnight's flawed broadcast on child abuse in North Wales.

He then caused Humphrys even further astonishment by blithely adding that he "was out" when the timebomb of a programme went to air on 2 November. How could a former editor of that same flagship news brand be so uninterested in the news? Entwistle had shown a similar taste for ignorance over Newsnight's Jimmy Savile investigation, declining to ask Helen Boaden for more information after she warned him he could have a "scheduling problem" for the tribute programmes he was overseeing last year. Entwistle didn't want to be seen to be interfering.

Entwistle's arrival in the top job, just 54 days before his resignation speech on Saturday night, was almost universally seen as good thing. The former head of BBC Four and BBC Knowledge appeared to have the intellectual rigour to oversee the delivering of high-quality public-service programming. He had strong journalistic credentials and, as a programme-maker, the support of the staff. A nice guy, hardly anyone had a bad word to say about George.

He had wanted to run the BBC since childhood. At the age of six he wrote to the "Derector of the BBC" to complain about the scheduling of Tom and Jerry.

Entwistle, 50, was appointed with the difficult tasks of implementing serious budget cuts and planning for the negotiation of the BBC's licence fee beyond 2016. But he inherited an organisation in fine reputational fettle after its coverage of the London Olympics that was almost as well received as the performance of Team GB itself.

In his resignation speech, he spoke of his belief that he had been "the right person to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead" but had been defeated by "wholly exceptional events".

Hours before Remembrance Sunday, he talked of doing the "honourable thing" in resigning, noting that as head of the BBC's editorial chain of command, he should take "ultimate responsibility" for a false story.

But unlike former Director-General Greg Dyke, who fell on his sword in 2004 over Radio 4's controversial report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Entwistle should have had more than a nominal role in the story.

He didn't brief himself on the Newsnight Savile investigation despite his responsibility for tribute shows about the Jim'll Fix It presenter. The lack of insight prompted Private Eye to suggest that the bespectacled Director of Vision "should have gone to Specsavers". Neither did he read press reports last week about inaccuracies in Newsnight's North Wales story, because he was too busy working on a speech.

Time and again, he reminded Humphrys of the scale of his new role and how he couldn't be expected to know all that was going on in the BBC. Struggling to get up to speed with his wide-ranging responsibilities in the top job, he could not cope with a journalistic crisis.

"It's a real tragedy that he was overwhelmed, as we all were to a great extent, by these events before he was able to act in a way which is clearly necessary," said Lord Patten. Losing such a valuable servant is a great loss to the BBC. He had promised to deliver "more Shakespeare" and more coverage of women's sport. Now such things will be a matter for his successor.

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

Administration Assistant / Office Assistant

£18 - 20k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An Administration Assistant / Office Assistan...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone