Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist
7 November 2003

Scott Burgess of The Daily Ablution has done “a little digging”:http://dailyablution.blogs.com/the_daily_ablution/2003/11/a_look_at_ican_.html about the people behind the “iCan project”:https://blog.org/archives/cat_egovernment.html#000899 and is unhappy with what he has found – one of the iCan ‘roving reporters’ “Stuart Ratcliffe”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ican/U517705 is backing an “anti-war group”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ican/club32 on the site, which he sees as problematic given the BBC’s claim to be impartial. Well, I would be surprised if any BBC reporter, particularly one with a political ‘beat’ had no political opinions at all, but it was pretty unwise of Stuart to back a group through the site – particularly since it will then make it pretty well impossible for him to report on the group and be taken seriously!

On the other hand, I think it is a legitimate point of view to suggest that it is better that all reporters should be open about any political views they may bring to their coverage, then strive to ensure that these don’t bias their actual reporting (which is after all the important point). It’s only possible to ‘adjust for’ a reporter’s views, after all, if we know what they are.

As for whether iCan is biased, I suggest we need to withold judgement and see if there is any evidence of preferential treatment in the way the site is run rather than rushing to judge the people who run it by their expressed private views.


  1. You wrote …
    “It’s only possible to ‘adjust for’ a reporter’s views, after all, if we know what they are.”

    If an outlet repeatedly proclaims that they’re ‘impartial’, we shouldn’t have to be making adjustments for each reporter. In fact, when they repeatedly tell us they’re impartial, they’re specifically telling us that we don’t have to do that.

    They’re telling us that we should trust the BBC’s impartiality and leave it at that.

    But, as this iCAN story shows, we can’t.

    Scott Burgess

    Comment by The Tapir — 7 November 2003 @ 5:40 pm

  2. But what I am saying is that it is not realistic for the BBC or any news outlet to pretend its journalists are in fact “objective”. What is “objective”? They can only say that they try to put their private biases aside and deliver something approaching unbiased coverage. You have to judge the BBC by the results not by the private views of the reporters.

    Comment by David Brake — 7 November 2003 @ 5:49 pm

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