John SweeneyWhen Panorama Editor, Sandy Smith, commissioned his favourite reporter to do a programme on the Church of Scientology, he made a grave error.
John Sweeney, his pit-bull of choice, lacks the dignity and tact required for a story that would, at least on its surface, address the activities and practices of a religion. As Sweeney himself explains, his tactics have nothing to do with intelligent reporting:
"There are three rules in journalism. First, find a crocodile. Two, poke it in the eye with a stick. Three, stand back and report what happens next."
Sweeney teamed up with his aptly named producer, Sarah Mole, who had previously done Sweeney's bidding as an undercover "mole" in a religious organisation for an earlier "Sweeney Investigates" programme. Together, they set about putting together a programme that follows the classic pattern of lazy journalists.
- Find a few naysayers on the Internet, interview them for some juicy, if unsubstantiated allegations.
- Take the claims that can now be attributed to a source and then repeatedly ask "questions" of your "target" prefaced with "Some people say…."
- It's a job made easy when the topic is something people aren't familiar with, but would be merely ridiculous otherwise.
A simple example proves the point: look up an anti-semitic website, interview the people who make the outrageous claims and then seek out Jews to ask each one "some people say you control all the commerce and banking in the world", or "some people say you are the messengers of the devil," or "some people say all Jews are greedy, selfish criminals." Don't bother to look at the practices or activities of the Jews, just fire away with the accusations. Of course, the vast majority of the population seeing this would dismiss it as the most vile sort of propaganda.
Yet, this is precisely what Sweeney and Mole did with the Scientology programme. They did get a reaction. What they didn't get was a story that enlightened anyone.
To watch "BBC Panorama Exposed", click here. You can also order your own free copy of the documentary on DVD by clicking here.
By the way, here's the original YouTube clip that caused all the trouble in the first place:
(Yes! That's on my YouTube account - johnalexwood! It's become one of the most viewed videos on YouTube in the world!)
Is this the true face of the British Broadcasting Corporation?
And for a good laugh, click here!
And here - yes, now's there's even a John Sweeney ringtone!
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