Wednesday, January 04, 2006

BBC "improves" on a WaPo article

Today the BBC's Paul Reynolds uses the Jack Abramoff indictment and guilty plea as an opening to delve into the world of Washington lobbyists with a fairly interesting article. At the end of the piece, he talks of the recent growth in Washington lobbying, citing a Washington Post "survey" which touched on the rather impressive salaries being commanded by lobbyists these days. Reynolds then says:
The growth was attributed in the survey to a combination of an expansion of government, the control of the White House and Congress by Republicans keen to develop this part of the governmental process, and the increasing realisation by companies they needed help in securing benefits and preventing damage to their interests.
When asked about where one might find this survey, Reynolds directed TAE to a Washington Post article from June. Oddly, the Post story makes no mention of any survey whatsoever, although it does indeed substantiate the figures that Reynolds cites. More significantly, though, was this particular paragraph from the Post article.
The lobbying boom has been caused by three factors, experts say: rapid growth in government, Republican control of both the White House and Congress, and wide acceptance among corporations that they need to hire professional lobbyists to secure their share of federal benefits.
Note the difference between this and Reynolds' re-write (apart from the fact that the opinion of "experts" has been transformed into the findings of a "survey"). In Reynolds' retelling of it, a partial cause of the growth is no longer simply the fact of Republican control of both the White House and Congress, but is instead the attitude of Republicans who control the government, namely that they are "keen to develop" the lobbying process.

Where this notion came from is unclear, and Reynolds has yet to respond to TAE's request for an explanation, but TAE will certainly post any response Reynolds may provide.

UPDATE: Just as I posted, my inbox flashed with a response from Mr. Reynolds.
I chose the most neutral form of words I could in order to explain in one paragraph what the article takes several to go into.
Given that at no point does the WaPo article claim anything like that Republicans are "keen to develop" the lobbying process, and that the WaPo article actually managed to convey the reasons for the growth in lobbying with 9 fewer words than did Reynolds, this strikes me as an extremely odd explanation.

Reynolds also said that since figures and graphs were included in the WaPo article, it was "obvious" that a survey was involved. Perhaps, but what seems less obvious to TAE is why the opinions explicity attributed to "experts" by the WaPo would then be attributed by the BBC to a "survey".


Anonymous paul reynolds said...

I have not replied to TAE's comments for some time (an effort an hour ago appears not to been here goes again) but I do not ignore what he says.


1. His link to the WP article appears not to show a graph on which I based the use of the word "survey". He therefore misunderstands this use.

2. His own use of language is interesting. In an e-mail to me directly he describes my piece in this way: "Your article was interesting and fairly well-balanced." Note that in his public comment he has downgraded "interesting" to "fairly interesting" and fails to to mention its balance at all!

Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online

8:09 AM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


First, I certainly did not mean to imply that you were ignoring what I say. You are, far and away, the most responsive reporter that I have experienced, and are indeed more responsive than any other part of the BBC. Your willingness to respond to questions and criticisms is both commendable and very much appreciated.

On your points:

1) The link I used was the very same one that you provided to me. If there is information elsewhere that cannot be seen on the link, please do let me know where, and I will link to it.

2) I did indeed use the characterization "interesting and fairly well-balanced" in an e-mail to you. I had in mind the fact that in your discussion of Abramoff you included the fact that Democrats as well as Republicans are implicated with his dealings, a fact that is often left out of analysis of the Ambramoff issue. And I did use the characterization in a more expanded version of my post (saying that by adding your editorial take to the WaPo information, you marred what was otherwise a "fairly well-balanced" piece.) But the more expansive piece, which spent a lot more time on the rest of your article, didn't flow well, I condensed it down to just focusing on the WaPo information, and the "fairly well-balanced" phrase was a victim of that editing process. Perhaps I would have done better to leave it in.

Having said that, my criticism remains, and despite your responses, the source of the "keen" characterization, if not your own editorial comment, remains unexplained.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Simon Lazarus said...

Once again, Mr. Reynolds does not understand what "lobbying" is.

Perhaps he just stop soaking his head in the Thames. His toupee is starting to reek.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


Paul has no obligation to make appearances on this site defending his work. Given that he does take us seriously enough to adress criticisms, and does so in a public way on a forum such as this, it seems to me to be not just poor form but counterproductive to be hurling insults his way.


2:14 PM  
Blogger Simon Lazarus said...



I continue to enjoy listening to you and your expose of biased writing at "the Beeb."

However, I would also like to see Mr. Reynolds justify his actions. I apologize if I made comments which could drive him away.


5:57 AM  

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