The Times on trial

Imagine if the BBC had been taken to a tribunal over allegations of bullying, bias and malpractice so serious the entire management team were made to appear as witnesses. Newspapers would be all over the story, with good reason.

As award-winning journalist Liz Gerard points out on Twitter, if you swap the BBC for The Times and Sunday Times, you get no coverage at all.

As she puts it:

Journalism is on trial here. Times editor John Witherow has been accused in open court of being a prejudiced bully who intimidates staff who disagree with him. An editor who sets an agenda and then tasks staff with proving his hypotheses. An editor “allergic” to facts.

An editor who brushed aside an award-winning journalist’s “significant misgivings” and insisted that he write a story about a child being “forced into Muslim foster care” whose source was an oligarch friend connected to the case.

His newspaper has been accused in open court – by two separate witnesses – of running a vendetta against transgender people. Of conjuring up and championing moral panic. Of distorting and corrupting journalistic values in pursuit of an agenda that pandered to the editor’s apparent dislike of various minority groups, including Muslims and transgender people.

As Gerard rightly says, these allegations may yet be proven incorrect. But the lack of coverage is quite remarkable. Imagine if the same things were being said about the BBC and this was their defence witness list.

  • The editor
  • The deputy editor
  • The former deputy editor
  • The executive editor
  • The group managing editor
  • The assistant managing editor
  • The former assistant managing editor
  • The director of HR editorial
  • The HR manager Scotland
  • The chief night editor
  • The former chief night editor
  • The Scotland editor
  • The deputy Scotland editor
  • The former deputy Scotland editor
  • The executive editor of the Sunday edition

One respondent, Jo Shaw, suggests one explanation for the lack of coverage:

if case law is established that toxic editorial positions can lead to prosecutions if they create a discriminatory environment for an employee, then this is a disaster for them. Other titles will equally be terrified… they do not want to pump oxygen into the story and risk a slew of legal actions against them by employees (LGBT+, Muslim, possibly even EU nationals) which might damage their ‘right’ to print any old discriminatory rubbish they want.