BBC editor sorry for ‘boring’ tweet
Tuesday 10th September 2013, 2:11AM BST.
The editor of a flagship BBC news programme has sent Labour a written apology after he described a shadow cabinet member’s appearance on the show as “boring”.
Newsnight’s Ian Katz made the gaffe about shadow Treasury chief secretary Rachel Reeves in a post on Twitter that was intended to be private, but ended up being visible to more than 26,000 people who follow him on the website.
In a letter to Labour, Mr Katz – in just his second week in charge of the BBC2 show – apologised “unreservedly” for what he admitted was an ill-judged remark”, but insisted that his comment did not reflect on Newsnight’s political impartiality.
In Monday night’s Twitter message, which was subsequently deleted, Mr Katz appeared to be responding to an acquaintance’s comments about the edition of Newsnight which had just ended. He wrote : “Tnks … except for boring snoring rachel reeves … playout was fun tho, wasn’t it? telly MUCH netter (sic) than snooooozepapers innit”.
The post prompted an apparently sarcastic reply from shadow treasury chief secretary Ms Reeves, who simply said “thanks…”.
Mr Katz subsequently apologised for the comment, which he said was supposed to have been a direct message (DM) to one individual Twitter user.
He said: “Accidentally sent v ill-judged tweet referring to RachelReevesMP’s appearance on NN. Thought was DM but in any circs wrong. Have apologised.”
But Labour sent Mr Katz an email demanding a full public apology for the “completely unacceptable” comment.
The message sent by the party said: “We would like to express our anger and disappointment at your tweet following Newsnight’s interview with Rachel Reeves.
“It is completely unacceptable for a senior BBC editor to have expressed this view, whether or not you intended for it to be made public. It is vitally important that the Labour Party, our shadow cabinet and Newsnight viewers have confidence in the impartiality and fairness of your programme, and the criteria on which guests and interviews are judged.
“This incident undermines that confidence and it is important that this is redressed. Although a tweet of apology has been made, a full written public apology should be made by the end of the day.”
In reply, Mr Katz wrote: “I’m only too happy to reiterate the apology I have already made to Rachel by text and on Twitter: I apologise unreservedly for my ill-judged remark about her appearance on Newsnight last night.”
He added: “I don’t accept your implication that my tweet reflects in any way on the impartiality or fairness of Newsnight, except to the extent that it reflects a determination to make Newsnight as interesting as I can.
“I am acutely aware, however, that we ask quite a lot of guests when we invite them to come into the studio to do late- night interviews, and my tweet hardly conveyed the appreciation we owe them for making the trip.
“I particularly regret any personal offence or upset I have caused to Rachel and hope she will come on Newsnight again soon.”
Mr Katz, former deputy editor of The Guardian, began work at Newsnight earlier this month after replacing Peter Rippon who left the programme in the wake of the Jimmy Savile crisis.
Labour vice-chairman Michael Dugher wrote on Twitter: “Good luck in future to BBCNewsnight in trying to persuade Labour people to go on their frankly rather boring programme at 11 at night … And whilst I’m at it … I’m not sure a guy who worked for the Guardian (yawn) & now Newsnight (snooze) can lecture people about being boring.”
Former Cabinet minister John Denham posted: “Ian Katz helped me answer whether I wanted to go from Southampton to Glasgow to appear on Newsnight.”