There’s an excellent piece by Paul Lashmar, investigative journalist and lecturer at Brunel University, on openDemocracy this week, examining the role of – and implications for – investigative journalism in the recent ‘BBC debacle’. I was particularly interested in the section dealing with the editorial decision not to run Newsnight investigation into Jimmy Savile and the notion of “anticipatory compliance“:
What was going on in Peter Rippon’s mind? By that point he must have been aware of the potential embarrassment for the BBC if Newsnight accused the late Savile of being a paedophile just as the BBC entertainment launched a hagiographic “Savile Christmas” of tributes. Was it anticipatory compliance where Rippon intuited what he thought his bosses would want? One insider says they think Rippon picked up on a passing comment by head of News, Helen Boaden, saw it as straw in the wind and decided to kill the investigation. We may never know the answer to this question. The Newsnight editor did not help himself with his blog which inaccurately recorded that the story was about the police investigation into Savile, not the actual Savile allegations. He looked like a man distancing himself from his own decision. One of the lessons to come out of this sorry affair is that the considered nature of investigative journalism and off the cuff casualness of social media are poor bedfellows.