The takeaway from the New York Times’ latest report on its incoming president and CEO Mark Thompson is that he had plenty of chances to learn about the contents of a canceled BBC Newsnight investigation into child sex abuse allegations against BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, from the press briefings his own team prepared for him. But, he says, he didn’t read them.
Thompson, the former BBC director general, has said he didn’t know about the segment’s existence until it was already killed, didn’t know the nature of the allegations against Savile, and didn’t have anything to do with the Newsnight cancellation. But while Thompson remained blissfully unaware of what BBC reporters were digging up on Savile, the Daily Mail’s readers and those of six other articles were learning about the allegations months before ITV ran its expose breaking the Savile story in October. “According to former executives, at least some of those articles were part of a packet of press clippings sent each morning to the network’s top executives,” the Times’ Matthew Purdy reports. But, “Mr. Thompson said he did not read all of the clippings and did not remember seeing those about Mr. Savile among the packets, which sometimes ran over 100 pages.” So he didn’t learn of the allegations until he was en route to the Times and the story had already turned into a scandal that has his own paper running op-eds questioning whether he’s the right man for the job.
Of course, if Thompson had managed to read his morning press briefings, he would be on much shakier ground in terms of being able to deny any and all knowledge of the Newsnight/Savile affair. Good thing for him that he was so inattentive.