Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Pick and Mix Approach to Reporting

I was listening to BBC Radio Jersey this morning, as they finally caught up with the entry of Lenny Harper on Stuart Syvret's blog, with a presentation. It was quite disconcerting, as having read the entire entry, it was clear that it was being quoted in an extremely selective manner, a "pick and mix" approach to reporting. Here are the details.

First, they took the audio clip of Mick Gradwell saying that going into Haut de La Garenne and starting an excavation had been a complete was a complete waste of time and money. Then they quote Lenny as saying:

"we received a positive reaction from the dog trained to find traces of human remains. This reaction came at the same spot as the builders had found the bones mentioned above. At this point, I took the decision to authorise the archaeologists to dig at that location. I would do the same again."

The suggestion from this is that it was the dog that was the prime indicator of whether to dig or not. What was missing was the following detailed explanation of why they went in, which was based on many other more weighty considerations:

The decision made at this meeting was that we should carry out an initial reconnaissance of the site over a short period to seek to clarify a number of objectives. It was decided that we would deploy several different assets, to be deployed in a "systematic fashion using best value and best practice guidelines." In simple terms, we wanted to establish if there was anything there which would need further investigation - or if we could "walk away" from it -without further investigation.

Two weeks later we moved in to the grounds of HDLG. We deployed Geophysical assets and Ground Penetrating Radar in order to identify anomalous areas for further investigation. We also used Gridded probing techniques to assist the dogs, and of course we had the anecdotal evidence of witnesses and victims. We decided we would not at any time carry out speculative searching but would deploy the forensic and archaeology assets in areas where there was corroboration that something needed further investigation. Before we excavated, we would give full consideration to possible explanations given by earlier work or utilities. We also studied in depth building plans and maps.

Lenny Harper also notes - again missed out of the BBC Report, that the ACPO team fully endorsed his decision. I have yet - as I have stated in blog entries before - to see any local journalist who has looked into this aspect of the investigation. The ACPO team seem to have been airbrushed out of history, apart from the Sunday Times reporter, who painted quite a different picture of the investigation, probably as a result of having seen the reports.

My decision was fully endorsed by the ACPO team who were mentoring us and this team included the former head of the Met Homicide Department and a vastly experienced Senior Investigating Officer. It was also unanimously supported by all of my senior team including the UK Homicide Search Advisors. The dig was necessary because there were matters which needed further investigation. Indeed, the advice of the ACPO Homicide Team was that we had no choice but to treat the scene as one of a potential homicide. This advice was expressed frequently, and I know it was given to Frank Walker.

The ACPO team come up again, and again have not been mentioned by Mick Gradwell, who really does not seem to have done his homework properly when it comes to investigating what part they played at Haut de La Garenne.

Gradwell bitterly criticised my media strategy and one press conference in particular came in for strong criticism where they accused me of brandishing a tooth in front of the media. The truth is simple. It was an excellent idea but it was not mine. I was at HDLG and it was just after we started finding the teeth and were being told that some of them could not have come out from children who were still alive. I was going out to answer questions at the demand of the media. The head of the ACPO team suggested that as a means of showing just how small the teeth were, and of illustrating what a good job the Archaeological and Anthropology teams were doing, I should show the media a tooth. He suggested displaying it alongside a five pence piece. I did so.

That Gradwell could have missed this means that he clearly had not contacted the ACPO team to review his statement for accuracy before making it, and nor, it appears, did the JEP journalist Diane Simon think to cross check the story.

Regarding the dogs, again missed from the presentation, is the note by Lenny Harper as to how they were deployed, which indicates, if there could still be any doubt, that the dogs were only an indicator, and not proof that there were dead bodies or anything else. Common sense would suggest that, but the presentation of the dogs has been highlighted so much in the media as if they were the litmus test of homicide. As Lenny makes absolutely clear, he did not see them this way:

Firstly, they [Mick Gradwell and Diane Simon] fundamentally misunderstand the role of the dogs. They do not, and cannot tell us that has happened at a location nor indeed, if there has been a murder or even a dead body there. What they tell us is that there is something which needs investigating. They are trained either to detect the presence of the scent of dead human flesh or blood. This they did, as in the cellar where they reacted and led us to all the bones and teeth. There were thousands of animal bones in that area and we recovered many hundreds. The dogs ignored them all.

The BBC will be giving further coverage to other parts of the rebuttal by Lenny Harper.

This is in contrast to earlier in the week, when they stated that "BBC Jersey says it can not and will not report on this posting unless Lenny confirms it was written by himself." Lenny commented that:

The BBC know very well that this entry is from me. None of the material on there is new. I have given it to a number of their journalists, local, regional and national, before. It is still on record on their own website. I will not speak to the Jersey media. Their coverage last week went beyond news reporting to being gratuitous and personally insulting. I am not tarring them all with the same brush - Chris Stone for example, I have always found to be a tough questioner but fair and objective. The same cannot be said about many of the rest. Me talking to the BBC will make no difference other than to give them something to fill space with. They did enough of that last week.

It seems strange that the BBC - especially Chris Stone - did not contact Lenny simply to confirm for themselves simply confirm that the presentation came from him, or notice that most of the details (although not their collation) were . Instead of taking the initiative (as you might expect from a news service), all they quoted this morning was "I will not speak to the Jersey media", which again is wrenched from the context above, and given at the start of their presentation, without any explanation, but with an implication that "we tried to contact him but he would not speak to us" - in other words, a surly individual who had a chip on his shoulder about the media, because he didn't want to face a direct question. Given the selective coverage of Lenny's rebuttal this morning, and his comments above, I think it is quite understandable.

Obviously any presentation on the BBC would of necessity have to be a summary, although that did not stop them presenting a lengthy press briefing from Mick Gradwell, which seems to have been only lightly edited. But what is interesting to me is that we have the original source, and we can compare, and see what is selected, even if the reasons why must remain speculative. By doing so, it is clear that their presentation is deficient in omitting various salient aspects of the story, not least the ACPO team's oversight.

Will they contact the ACPO team to ask them questions - as one would expect a professional journalist to do so, simply as a matter of checking Lenny's story and either corroborating or disconfirming it? That remains to be seen.


Anonymous said...

Equally concerning is why they did not attend the Care Leavers press call yesterday.

rico sorda said...

A Great post Tony.. What are our media playing at surely they are not being told what to put out..


voiceforchildren said...


Everything you have pointed out, I agree with.

The very sad thing is it wouldn't suprise anybody. More and more people are becoming aware of our local media's "journalism" and "special relationship" with our ruling Elite.

The saddest thing is, is that what Matthew Price, Denzil Dudley, and Chris Stone are doing, they are doing in the name of the BBC.

Thank God for the internet and Blogs!

Anonymous said...

It was sad too that Bara was desperately trying to fill his appalling programme with absolute dross like the utterly pointless "look" at the Jersey archives rather than give proper time and attention to both Harper's and the Care Leavers responses.

Obviously we need a coordindated approach re BBC Jersey's dreadful service but outside the Island and off - line too. Anyone interested should indicate support initially through available networks.

Anonymous said...

The only conclusion one can derive from all the evidence is almost too painful to contemplate. There must be an organized effort to destroy any journalistic integrity, judicial integrity, and political integrity regarding this HDLG matter. I am beginning to believe this can be the only logical reason for all the blatant official lies and continued spin.