Saturday, June 22, 2013

When a journalist is too close to a story, it is not a good thing. Here's why

On his Guardian blog on Monday, Roy Greenslade wrote about the Charles Saatchi-Nigella Lawson throat-grabbing episode.

Greenslade, a former newspaper editor, professor of journalism at London's City University, and media commentator, appeared to play down the incident in his post. And instead of upbraiding Saatchi, Greenslade chose to pass sly comments about the newspaper that printed the graphic pictures of Saatchi repeatedly grabbing his wife by the throat in a London restaurant.

Read the post here: "Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi: story behind a red-top scoop".

(The term "red tops", as defined by Wikipedia, refers to tabloids with red nameplates, such as The Sun, the Daily Star, the Daily Mirror ... and distinguishes them from the Daily Express and Daily Mail. Red top newspapers are usually simpler in writing style, dominated by pictures, and directed at the more sensational end of the market.)

The very next day, Greenslade published what he referred to as a red-faced apology:

The post began:

I am mortified to think that people viewed my posting yesterday about Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson as some kind of defence of domestic violence. That was not my intention at all.

However, after so many e-mails — not to mention much outrage on Twitter — I concede that I expressed myself very badly indeed.

And towards the end of the short post comes the lesson all journalists will do well to heed:

Sometimes one is too close to a story, and this is the irony: I was clearly over-compensating for the fact that I have been a friend of Nigella's ever since we were colleagues on the Sunday Times more than 20 years ago.

In order to be scrupulously fair about the incident, showing no favour to a friend, I went way in the wrong direction. I therefore owe her apologies. And I apologise also to all those, including several Guardian colleagues, who thought I'd taken leave of my senses.

Read the mea culpa here: "Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi: why I called it wrong..."

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