Reporting Scotland ignores its own editorial guidelines to ‘cobble together’ an infection-control crisis based on a single unreliable social media source

A group of people standing in a room

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Bagram Prison?

Headlining in the UK news at 6pm and then again at 6.30, we see a melodramatic report, based on an unattributed single source from social media, utterly contrary to their own published editorial guidelines:

‘As the number of confirmed Scottish cases climbs above 1 000, there are still (sic) concerns that frontline NHS staff don’t have proper protective equipment.’

The word ‘still’ refers presumably to a previous report based on a Facebook chatroom hosted by one GP.

‘The BMA says provision remains patchy.’

The BMA is a trades union which clearly has no figures to offer here, reliable or otherwise.

‘They’re having to improvise to save lives. This is the homemade protective equipment medical staff (sic) are cobbling together in the face of shortages in the NHS.’

This statement is based on social media postings, unattributed and not corroborated.  Their own guidelines say:

All BBC output [….] must be well sourced, based on sound evidence, and corroborated

‘Medical staff’ presumably refers to the two people pictured. A public service provider needs far more evidence than this to consider reporting.

Then we are presented with this:

A screenshot of a cell phone

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See the referencing to ‘what she had to say’ and ‘inadequate infection control?’

This has all the signs of being from the same wee team led by the Glasgow anaesthetist and her BBC Scotland pals who prophesied Scotland becoming like Spain and Italy.

Let’s be clear. The ‘mown down’ phrase is irresponsible scaremongering like the earlier reference to Spain where the mortality rate is MORE THAN 10 TIMES GREATER PER CAPITA.

There is no evidence at all of inadequate infection control. NHS Scotland’s low mortality level is clear evidence that infection control is at a high level. We already knew before the coronavirus outbreak that it was so as Norovirus closed wards across England but not in Scotland, in January.

This report is based almost entirely on material from social media. BBC guidelines are clear that such material must be treated with caution:

Material from the Internet and Social Media

3.3.11 Even apparently reliable sources of information on the web may not always be accurate. It may be necessary to check who is running the website or confirm with an individual or organisation that the material relevant to them is genuine.

3.3.12 Care needs to be taken to distinguish fact from rumour, particularly – but by no means exclusively – on social media where misinformation may be deliberate and where error or rumour can spread around the world in minutes, while corrections find it harder to gain traction.

Additional scrutiny may be necessary if material from a social media site or other internet source is being used to corroborate a fact. Material that we did not gather ourselves should be attributed.

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