The press release posted and embargoed at the BBC’s press office website has a misleading and inaccurate lead.
Let’s put aside for a minute how silly it seems to post something on a public website and then tell people it’s embargoed. Rule #1 in PR 101 (all together, please?) “If you don’t want to see it on the front page of the NYT, don’t say it!”
The lead of the breathless press release states that ‘President George W. Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq – and create a Palestinian State, a new BBC series reveals. ‘
Wow, I knew GWB was religious, but I didn’t know he was messianic in that way! But wait, this is pure hype and editorializing by the BBC.
When you read further, however, you learn that the source for this amazing revelation is actually one of the Palestinian leaders engaging in some tasty hearsay. This didn’t come from the White House.
The BBC’s reputation for journalistic integrity is severely damaged by this kind of hyperbole, and it could have been avoided if the press release writer had simply added the phrase, ‘according to a Palestinian leader who claimed to have heard the statements.’ The way it’s written makes it look like the Beeb interviewed George Bush and he said these things to a BBC news team. It’s misleading, and whatever you think of Mr. Bush’s politics or religious beliefs, it has no place in a BBC news release.
That’s the gist of the formal complaint I lodged with the BBC’s website. Let’s see if they respond. I will report back if I hear from them.