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Read this: Covid's back in the news

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Covid's back in the news…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hello, this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 to 21st.

We have what the Telegraph calling the lockdown files thousands of WhatsApp messages that former Health Secretary Matt Hancock sent and received he gave them to the journalist Isabel oakeshott, so she can help write his book about the pandemic now.

They've been given to the Telegraph by Isabel oakeshott.

It's raising questions about the government decision-making during the pandemic and it's also raising about journalistic ethics next we have the FBI which this week said it believe the most likely explanation of how the pandemic started is a lovely in China and idea back in 2020 was dismissed by some as a conspiracy theory will look at how the media handle that idea at the time and we're learning a lot about how Fox News handle Donald Trump's false claim.

The 2020 US election was stolen, we'll talk about that too.

Let's start though with the Daily Telegraph Camilla Tominey speaking on the world at one earlier about the papers decision to publish those messages of Matt hancocks and you can see the rapidity and regularity with which messages were pin on WhatsApp that then informed major decision decision making then we think there's a legitimate public interest for the public to know what was said at the time in his messages with media studio is head of broker British American journalist the Freedom of Information campaign and a former professor of journalism at city university in the US on the MPs expenses store the Daily Telegraph in 2009 you also worked on the WikiLeaks story that the Guardian published some years afterwards in the case of this cash of messages.

Would you have published?

I would have to see them all but I yes, I think there's such a great public interest in knowing having a real-time account of when the decisions were being made and they've done it in a seemingly responsible way.

They haven't just dumped it all out on the internet.

They have gone through it.

I mean my main question is what did they leave out? What were the political motivations for this to even come out in the first place because I feel like there is some underlying story the story behind the story about how these came into to be published in the first place well Matt Hancock touches on some of those issues in a statement.

He said these stolen messages have been Doctor to create a false story that Matt rejected clinical advice on care home to this is wrong.

It's a statement on behalf of Matt Hancock which make the question.

Why do you not put all the messages out if you had them rather than selectively pick them with please you open to this.

Criticism yeah, I mean.

It's a common criticism that you get when you do publishers that you've had a manipulated 520 left things out and if if not hang up being the original these messages that he and downloaded them all and gave them to Isabel oakeshott saw her sisters are a coffee if he wants to correct the record.

There's nothing to stop him from doing that.

He could you know he can just publish the full account of those messages if he wants to but you don't have concerns about the fact that he downloaded and gave those messages to Isabel oakeshott for the purposes of writing a book not for the purposes of putting in the day the different conversation does like 22 ethical issues here, when is the ethics of publishing them? Do they have a strong public interest and I think the answer to that is yes, and then the other thing is the journalist that she has basically betrayed a source and that's you know that something that she needs to think about herself to be like Morley square with herself, but then also there are the

I mean, it's a tricky thing because you know for journalists especially investigative journalist source protection is such a an important value SO2 if your source and gives you and then you can you say that trust that that is an issue that I would want to you know I think needs more conversation and it's not the first time that it has been in the situation before with source protection well Isabel oakeshott anticipated some of these questions coming her away because she's published along article in the Daily Telegraph along with the story he one paragraph from etsy says already the meant by the time all those being paid via the taxpayers money to protect reputations have finished.

It's not hard to imagine the whole thing may become a colossal whitewash, she makes the case for simply getting this information out there because

People deserve to see in a good case to make and certainly it's true that are public enquiries and in Britain take forever.

They are always sort of way to put something into the long grass you not for everybody who who is that a material irresponsible has already moved on by the time that these enquiries have a concluding result bringing Vivienne Shiels active directory of aspen digital which is part of the Aspen Institute she's also a former president and CEO of national Public Radio in the US she's held senior roles at Twitter CNN New York Times NBC others amphibian welcome to the media, so I guess that start with the same question I asked her that would you have published look it's already there is a separate issue about the ethics of her protecting her source that I think we can talk about that, but that's a separate topic newsworthy.

It is responsibility of New York

To to publish newsworthy information is certainly newsworthy, but here's my two concerns first of all in terms of she did not release the cash of documents one might say that there is no confidential information to be protected that needs to be protected and in the hands of a responsible journalist be more comfortable with a publishing as a news organisation publishing so wet exits except.

She clearly has an agenda.

She is not a so-called neutral channel is she even if you read her story about? Why she did it she uses phrases like people being imprisoned in their home.

She's got a point of you.

She doesn't put all journalists and news organisations and their own way have one agenda or Another

Literally said that she believes that the lockdown effort than that captain judgement on this but she said that she's coming down with a very strong point of view on a controversial issue, and then has presented evidence that supports her point of view which doesn't give me much trust.

Yeah, I would agree because I've followed her career a little bit.

I don't know everything about basically.

I feel is not a neutral absolutely that description she's Justified her decision, but the other thing I should say it's Isabel oakeshott who's publishing? This is the Daily Telegraph she hasn't put it on a blog and hers or posted the matters tweet she's gone through one of the biggest newspapers in this country have put it on their front page.

It's been through the Daily Telegraph editorial processes and as such we should be judging the Telegraph as well as the German they shouldn't be yeah.

I agree and that.

You're also there are politics underneath the story and it feels to me I mean some stories you can really sense that there's a load of an empirical bedrock of the story and then other ones come out with heavy political spin on them and this one struck me as having quite a heavy put a dustbin.

I'm glad it's out there is certainly incredibly important to the public but I would have preferred it to not have such a such as spin, but when you were working on the WikiLeaks story which came out via the Guardian another Media organisations around the world you and others involved chose to include something and choose to chose the not include others and there were political ramifications of doing that to when they're they're always mean if you're making decisions about what to publish and might not to publish you have to you're deciding those things but I guess what I would say is the reasons for the decisions are transparent.

You know the reason we didn't publish all of the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables like as a dump is big.

We can say there's actually quite a lot of security information that shows where that shows where troops are that shows where people that talk to the American government are and they're in hospital countries there lies would generally be in danger.

So that's why were keeping that out.

I don't know what the what the criteria were for reductions of these lockdown files well.

It's not the last time.

Will I hear about the men? I'm sure through the week and beyond the Daily Telegraph will be doing more to explain it's thinking by the way you can listen back on BBC sounds to hear the full interview with Camilla Tominey for the Daily Telegraph which was on the world at 1, thank you very much indeed for being with us on the media.

Show we appreciate it.

That's how they broke Vivienne Cilla is staying with us and we're gonna turn to another story now which also roots back to 2020 this Wall Street Journal exclusive this weekend at the US energy department is concluded that the pandemic most likely arose from a lab in China then you seen the news today.

Director of said that the FBI has drawn a similar conclusion go back to 2020 and that idea was in some quarters referred to as a conspiracy consider how the media handled this particular idea first will put new keys here senior editor for global Health security and campaigns at the Telegraph now good to see you Paul thanks for coming in we should be clear we invited you before the lockdown files landed and you're not here to talk about that, but I just wondered what it like being in a newsroom in a news organisation when a story of the scale comes along do you know it's coming for starters? Well? I didn't know it was coming but very exciting if you answered.

It's a great Scoop and a great group.

I think in the public interest but I don't know the details of how it was put together as you're not here to talk specifically about Matt Hancock but you'll remember as well as I do that if we go back towards the beginning of the pandemic.

They were sections that.

You will not at all comfortable talking about the lab leak Theory some would just saying we shouldn't be touching this what are your memories of how that issue was handled at the time looking back.

I think actually that narrative isn't quite right my memory is that the lab leak? Hypothesis was pushed out quite early by Spooks in the state the Wall Street Journal another American papers.

Do I think it's been there pretty much since the Beginning if we if we really go back and I think that the US intelligence agencies should been charged with considering where the virus came from have actually done quite a good job.

You know there's six or seven of these agency.

They produced a report Under an umbrella title 18 months ago and it is an update on that do you worry though that the the nuances of the conclusions being drawn by the

American bodies is being lost as it turns into reports in the media.

Yes, I do I think the reporting of it.

It is pretty poor for example the the energy organisation has come to it's conclusion, but it says it felt it does go with low confidence and that means in its own words that the data is relying on questionable fragmented or in a States such as solid analytical conclusion cannot be inferred from it and so let's explore this information point where intelligence science and journalism Collide you're going to stay with us, but let me bring in Tim Corfield professor of health law and science policy at the University of Alberta professor caulfields, also an author of the TV hosting and professor you have in some way straddle the media in the academic world on this particular issue.

I wonder as you saw.

Listen the media grappling with ideas like the lab leak what your impressions were mention of of how this debate has has played out because it's really a number of streams going on here.

There is there is the scientific storyhouse.

I'd have grappled with this engine won't be careful here.

This is still very natural Cards Right they still do not record and then you have you know these see if they have come out in United States that have grappled with this to and they're saying hey this is complex and what is it 2 out of 5 now or leaning lab-leak the others are still raining or saying is no consensus right and then you have how the media has been portraying this and it has been less than ideal get a group Poole

Fascinating how you have this one report from one agency that is based on low confidence and then we come to the first category noser politicians.

We will ask him when he was a lovely we should never been it should never been said that that this was a conspiracy theory, so there's really fast thinking these four dreams in there are others out there kind of grapple with what is really complex and important.

I think that should be highlighted to science and we haven't done a great job.

Yeah, we just for a fuel this polarisation and unfortunately.

I don't think it.

It's gonna go away.

I don't want to add one more element if I could you has been a cancellation the bioweapon conspiracy theory and the witch by the way all the agency saying it is a conspiracy a weapon really like that has ride friend.

As being an accurate and the lab leak Theory but for sure early days.

We did not handle this well from the sidemen occasion prospective and some of the Dynamics which you describe play now in 2020 and since one of the journalistic responses to this has been fact-checking guiding us through the pandemic with clear fact-checking where possible and also here in the studio is Pippa and Kinross news an online editor from full fat tire Pippa thanks for for being with us.

How did you handle this one back in 2020? This was a very difficult one.

I think it was really obvious really right from the start of 2020 that we were not going to have evidence to talk about this and you know we we don't pretend to be a team of experts that everything about everything we can have to rely on the best evidence that is available when we fact check something and I think it's easy to forget now how how much was.

In the early days of the pandemic, how much evidence was coming out which would later get replaced by other evidence and other evidence that we went through so you know we we did look at these claims because this is the number of it isn't it in the way that science handle something that it collects evidence that collect more evidence and its position evolve zweilous, if you're fat checking that suggested degree of certainty that perhaps the science wasn't able to offer I think one of the most important things that we do in fact checking people obviously a keen to have her.

This is true or this is false and that's quite often not something variety of topics but one of the really important to do is to express on certainty uncertainty exists and to be really clear about the limits of the evidence that able to give so back in sort of March 2021 we were starting to write about these things we could say this is the best evidence we have available at the moment, but this is not certain and I think being clear about what is not certain is.

This conversation as well, so that's how you were approaching it but Paul I wonder whether one of the other Dynamics here was that there was so much for information about covid flying around that science academics journalists and others was soaking to jump on information that was wrong and say no no don't believe this the sometimes information that was worthy of further attention was being fully labelled in that way question is really about probabilities.

You know what more probable and and I think that was a fantastic story in it which is explainable understandable by readers with all sorts of twists and levels of evidence but if people simply want to write.

This is true or that is true.

We get our cell.

To this very difficult position when people start to lose trust in the media and what is being said prefer to bring you in here.

I agree with both my colleague said in the this is kind of fascinating actually because research has shown that the public says I want to know about answer to be honest with me be trans with me, but when you do that, you may not get that signal through the noise right.

So you want to have this flashy headline you want to have the the content that is Sherlock on social media, but unfortunately excuse to the dogmatic excuse to the the definitive.

When is the reality is it's it's very very uncertain so I'm certainty they create certainty but when you asking they said they want you to be honest about about the answer to you.

I believe we can do both for life.

Make compelling compelling content that is true that the science because you and your colleagues are a huge amount of information about not just how the media disinformation, but how we all handle it as consumers response to this because of the Wall Street Journal article that broke the news about the energy department.

This is before the FBI came in and the headline.

I'm reading it is most likely origin of covid-19 pandemic energy department now says you have to go scroll down the article to discover that the disclaimer is they have a low quote low confidence.

I found that to be a very irresponsible headline giving low level of confidence and given the context of people looking to you know polarised world people looking.

Cast blame on the media and make sure that their side wins which nobody wins in the situation and just finally on this subject professor Caulfield what about this idea that both scientists and journalists a concerned about giving oxygen to conspiracy theories that sometimes day unfairly label something as such when in fact it's worthy of further exploration and expiration.

This this is a real challenge.


We did all research around the idea of false balance which to be honest with you throughout the pandemic was a bigger issue than then another word so giving too much oxygen 222 fringe ideas, then then the other if she was not taking things things seriously you know the lab Theory as Paul noted.

It has been covered pretty consistently for the last 2 years early days.

I think early days.

We talking early 2020.

It was more of a the scene at the beginning of a pandemic.

I do think what we can do is use with call the weight of evidence approach.

Where are you highlight that there are the views out there but right now right now the body of Evidence tells us another story that's similar to the approach to the full fact took them and is taking now and professor coffee will leave it there on this.

Thank you very much.

Thanks to the paper and Kinross

From full fact and pull Newquay from the Telegraph now, we are reflecting there on that bigger story where Media politics ideology journalism allconnect here's another story where that has been happening because in the US Dominion voting systems has brought a defamation case against Fox News it relates to how the network cover Donald Trump's claims about the 2020 election being stolen courses a claim not backed up by available evidence and bought the Washington Post columnist and media critic has been covering the story and Eric the reason we invited you on was because this death cases revealed a great deal about the inner workings of Fox news.

Just tell us what we've learnt.

Obviously can't hear us or if you can we can't hear him.

Give you the following this an in this these details we saw the Fox News executives were really debating hard how to cover these claims when clearly some of them had major doubts about the

I mean, I I think that was revealed was not surprising but it was none the less shocking to hear so plainly the executives and the Anchors clearly acknowledging that the election was nonsense it in believe it and very plainly saying we can cover the truth.

We know because we will lose audience and we will lose money was you know just really confirmed what many of us to have suspected, but it's just that the level of racism and damage that causes just deeply deeply shocking well on the lawsuit Fox News Dominion lawsuit has always been more about what we generate headlines than what can withstand legal and factual is illustrated by the now being forced to / their fanciful damages demand by more than half a billion dollars after their own expert debunked.

It's impossible claims and of course we'll have to see how that.

Plays out, but nonetheless it was an insight, wasn't it? Not just to the dynamic within fox, but also the fact that Rupert Murdoch by his own admission like to stay involved in the journalism of the companies which she owns and I think Erica's audio audio on that you there ok.

Yes, I'm fantastic.

Please tell us more about what we learnt from these messages about the detailed discussions within Fox on this issue, basically indicator didn't believe a lot of the programming that they were broadcasting simply because well, they want to keep their audience and they knew the audience leave them if they told to fart on the truth and this other audience wants to be once this issue the stone election coin became or reels for the white top run.

I'm starting to migrate towards other more even more.

I just read out and decided.

What are we going to do we need to tell them why we need the thread the needle which we need to do some sort of balancing to keep their audience.

This is understandable behaviour for an hour but the only had it's raining too short for that person.

That doesn't really have a break newsfast don't have any huge schools.

Are they have ever had everything you don't think though that and this before from Fox representative for there's a distinction between his opinion programming and it's News programming.

That's a distinction that sometimes argued that the news programming.

Plays it straight while opinion people are given.

The waiter to express themselves programming is that really damages the country the news program is just basically conservatively tilted discussion topics and so on and so forth if you know the person for example were all the better position are the commentators weren't actually expressing their opinion as we now know because of the because of the text messages.

They were expressing what they thought they needed to do to keep there a switch.

I am not eating a definition while but the experts are wearing in that this is about as powerful evidence as has been seen and a very very high bar.

Stop just very quickly as you come to the end of the program.

What happens next in the case.

How long do we wait until we get to the end of this story well, so I'm going through which city in their favour.

They have oral arguments on March 21st.

April 17th and some sort and as far as I can see so we're looking at basically.

We try it would be a real tedious undertaking to because people wear with the point of trying to service a state of mind what they knew what they said and signed a really interesting and tedious for describing it criticise The Defamation motion saying prevent channel is from basic reporting in their efforts to.

Strictly smear fox for covering in commenting on allegations by sitting President should be recognised for their is without thanks the heather Paul Tim Pippa Vivian and Eric at the movie shows that is over 3 BBC sounds and will be back with you next.

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