There is incompetence, and there is mind-melting, skin-flaying, “You did WHAT???” incompetence. A story that I read while laughing last night is the latter. Here is the whole thing, from The Hill:
The BBC has apologized for airing an interview with someone posing as Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on Friday.
According to a post on the BBC website, the interview only aired at 3 p.m. EST last Friday but was not used any other time.
“In our Newshour radio programme on Friday, a man claiming to be Senator Cory Booker was interviewed in what appears to be a deliberate hoax,” the BBC wrote in a post it called a correction and apology.
“We have apologised to Senator Booker and are looking into what went wrong to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The message was posted to the BBC website over the weekend and the network made an on-air mea culpa Monday. The BBC declined to comment on how the incident occurred or when the faux U.S. politician was booked. Press representatives from Booker’s office did not immediately comment on the incident.
Now I’m laughing again. This would be embarrassing for my high school newspaper, The Arlington High Chronicle, but the BBC? An apology is hardly sufficient. This goes way beyond fake news to fake newsmaker, fake interview, fake journalists, and fake trustworthy news organization. I’m trying to think of a similarly outrageous news media botch, other than CNN allowing Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and Brian Stelter to masquerade as competent commentators. After all, at least they really are Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and Brian Stelter...or are they?
- Didn’t the fake interview have to be booked? Then it would at least explain how the stunt Senator “I am Spartacus!” got in a position to be accepted by gross incompetents.
- Or is it possible to walk up to the front desk of any news organization, say you are someone important or famous and there for a spontaneous interview, and get a happy “That’s great! We’ll get you into make-up right away!”?
- I might try it. I think I’ll drop in on Fox News and say I’m Hillary Clinton and have something I want to get off my chest…on second thought, that might be unethical.
- There are at least three inexplicable gaffes here: 1) Interviewing the fake Senator without checking whether he was who he said he was 2) The interviewer and staff being unable to tell that he was fake during the interview, and 3) allowing the thing to be broadcast.
- How many BBC employees should be fired for all this? Ten? Twenty? All of them?
- Do all African Americans look alike to BBC staff? I hope Phony Booker was at least black.
For many decades, I have maintained that the foundational problem with journalism is that those who go into the field are, for the most part, not all that bright but under the impression that they are smarter than they really are. This story has done nothing to dissuade me from that analysis.