MISS

 

On this morning’s “Today” programme on BBC Radio Four we had the interesting experience of hearing a seasoned broadcast journalist drop himself well and truly in it.

In an interview about the Abu Hamza extradition BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner dropped in to the interview  that, at the hight of Hamza’s notoriety,  he had had a conversation with The Queen in which she had commented on the fact that Hamza had not been arrested.

The moment he said it you knew the interviewer, James Naughtie would pounce – and pounce he did.

There was also a moment where, if you are a seasoned interview listener, when you could hear Frank Gardener’s mind saying “Oh no why did I say that”, as clearly the almost off the cuff comment was going to open a can of worms consisting of Royal protocol, journalistic respect of off the record and private comments.

Before the Today Programme had finished the comment was lead item in the news and only an hour or so later the BBC was back tracking with Frank Gardner, to apologise for revealing something which was not intended for public consumption.

A couple of PR lessons here. First it’s worth bearing in mind that even if you don’t expect something you say to a journalist to be published or broadcast, remember they may end up revealing it by accident – even years later. My advice has always been never say anything you wouldn’t want to see in print.

Second, it shows how even skilled, seasoned broadcast journalists can get caught out by their colleagues, particularly when they become commentators rather than reporters.

True Naughtie could have spotted the hole Gardner was digging and helped him out, but his nose for news was too strong – but Gardner could have spent more time preparing what he was going to say, just as I would advise any client going to do an interview.

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