It wasn’t an exact repeat of the Chinese whispers we had at the weekend, but it’s still a pretty good example of how some news gets gathered and spread these days.
It started around 6.45 yesterday (Tuesday) evening when someone – a “source” – left the room where the talks were going on and told the BBC that surgery at the unit was going to resume: final details were being put in place and a press release would be issued within the hour.
(How does that work? Does the ‘source’ ask permission to leave the room?: “Excuse me, chair. OK if I nip out and tell the BBC what’s been decided so far?” Or does she/he take advantage of a break in proceedings, seek out his/her contact at the BBC and spill the beans?)
The ‘news’ that the source passed on duly got published online and broadcast by the BBC on radio and TV.
“We understand, we’ve found out in the last few minutes that children’s heart surgery is to resume with immediate effect.”
One of those BBC reports was heard by one of the local MPs who have been campaigning for the unit to stay open, Stuart Andrew.
Mr Andrew then posted on Facebook and Twitter:
Which sort of adds authenticity to the report, him being an MP and everything.
Enough authenticity at least for ITV’s regional news outfit Calendar to take it seriously and update its online page.
And if further authentication were needed, a second of the campaigning MPs gave corroboration.
There then followed – just as on Sunday night, and just as understandably – a storm of celebration and congratulation on Leeds Twitter.
The only problem was that there’d been no official confirmation. And as far as I could see online the BBC story that everyone was following (knowingly or not) still wasn’t carrying a source for its report on the re-opening.
Then a lone voice piped up (the same lone voice that piped up during Sunday evening’s premature celebrations).
As the hours dragged on, the penny slowly began to drop.
Until it all unravelled with a tweet from NHS England’s head of media relations Roger Davidson.
Cue Twitter storm: “this is madness”, “yet another about-turn”, “totally incompetent”, “they will be held accountable” etc etc
By the time we got to the 22.35 Look North news bulletin, the BBC was saying:
“… we understand that meetings will resume tomorrow to try to resolve these issues but tonight it seems that those agreements we were told were in place earlier in the evening are not at this particular stage now.”
Your guess is as good as mine about what really happened: did the meeting change its mind while the ‘source’ was out of the room?; or is it all just a question of timing and diplomacy? Who knows.
Whatever. Tomorrow it’s all going to be happening again.
What’s the chance that those attending will bear in mind what the NHS England spokesman said last Thursday?:
“It is really important that this review is carried out in a sensible, effective and decisive way. For that to happen it needs to follow a proper and complete process. It cannot be conducted in the media.” (my highlighting)