Newsnight crisis: it is inconceivable that further heads will not roll

Ironically, the lack of checks on the McAlpine might be helpful to some top BBC figures, but they're far from in the clear yet.

Related Topics

News that the most senior figures in the BBC News Division have “stood aside” may not come as a surprise at a time when the organisation's “shoddy journalism” has created a crisis that has brought down its Director General.

But the sidelining of Helen Boaden and her deputy Stephen Mitchell comes in the wake of a story for which they had no responsibility. Both had been "recused" from the editorial chain of command for Newsnight's disastrous Lord McAlpine story because they were already linked to a BBC inquiry into the failures of the same programme's Jimmy Savile investigation.

Some might argue that these were really two separate stories and that the two leading executives in BBC News should have been heavily involved in a film that seemed certain to put the organisation on a collision course with the Conservative party. By allowing them to stand aside (and only oversee stories that didn't deal with Savile or child abuse), the BBC created a leadership vacuum and a level of confusion that allowed a deeply flawed piece to be rushed onto air in a bid to save Newsnight's reputation, which was already so badly damaged by its timidity over Savile. Now, like a pair of Nashville line dancers, the pair have stepped aside from the position they'd taken up after their previous crab-like motion.

Ironically, the lack of checks on the McAlpine story before it went to air - including the calamitous error of not asking the subject Steve Messham to identify a picture of his alleged attacker - may be helpful to some of the figures at the top of BBC News as they fight to defend their good names.

Ms Boaden has been criticised within the BBC newsrooms for allowing a culture of caution to inhibit the courage of the Corporation's journalism. But under her eight year tenure in the wake of the Hutton inquiry into Today's failings in reporting on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the BBC has until recently been relatively free of editorial scandal. Now she and Mr Mitchell might argue that we are witnessing the much greater damage caused to the world's most famous broadcaster when it plays fast and loose with the facts in a bid to land a sensational story.

Similarly Peter Rippon, the Newsnight editor who was also forced to shuffle sideways into the shadows after the quashing of the Savile investigation, could point out that the McAlpine fiasco shows how right he was to be ultra-cautious in risking his programme's reputation on the historic claims of alleged child abuse victims.
Nonetheless, Rippon's erroneous blog - published in the early stages of this scandal and helping to set the tone for the BBC's mishandling of this crisis - means that he is far from in the clear. With BBC News in disarray the futures of Ms Boaden and Mr Mitchell must also be in doubt because with the findings of three internal inquiries pending it is inconceivable that further BBC heads will not roll.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn