Its that week again – you know: the week when you rush round collecting receipts and filing your online tax return before handing over several thousand pounds to your fave government department.
Which is why i was working late (2am).
Which is why i was half listening to Radio 2.
Which is where i heard the Beeb reporting – as a laff! – the story of the woman who changed sex to avoid the bailiffs!
Funny trans story
Pardon? I hit iPlayer to check my ears weren’t deceiving me.
Then on to google to work out where the story had come from. It wasn’t too hard to source: this report from Australian news org NineMSN cites a press release put out by a bunch of Bailiffs in Astrakhan and picked up by Agence France Presse (AFP)
(that’s the Russian city of that name – not the fashion statement!)
It tells the story of a Russian who changed gender to avoid paying debts of around $3,700. As you do.
I mean, the lengths people will go to to escape the Bailiffs!
No doubt The Beeb will be including a special feature on just this deception in a forthcoming special edition of law’n’order wet dream “The Sheriffs are coming”.
Or maybe not.
Pisspoor journalism – in general and at the Beeb
I was, not unnaturally, less than impressed. The Beeb have supposedly been talking to the likes of Trans Media Watch…learning some sensitivity.
Whereas this…this just reeked of some late night newsdesk wonk sent to search for a “funny”, running their eyes down the latest wire input and thinking: oh…that’s amusing.
I, on the other hand, was upset on two grounds. The first and most obvious is the same old, same old trivialisation. The language used. The devolution of what may well be a long and complex life story to the status of early hours soundbite.
But as a journalist, i mostly unimpressed by the pisspoor standard of journalism involved.
Let’s start with why this is in the news. Astrakhan just happens to be in the Southern European bit of Russia, not a million miles removed from Sochi, which is even now gearing up for an inundation of world news organisations.
It might be coincidence. But i suspect that we are about to hear a lot of Russian trivia as barrel scrapings that would ordinarily never make it on to the news agenda float to the surface on hundreds of newsdesks around the world.
And this is barrel scraping! Its a press release by an organisation with a clear interest in getting their story, their point of view, into the news. Its pretty much mono-sourced: that is, it depends on that press release and is mostly padded out with quote from the company involved.
Balance? Where’s the story from the perspective of the alleged debtor? And if they are now living full time as male, where’s the need to release details of previous identity: where’s their consent to be outed or to have that identity plastered across world news for the purposes of giving everyone else a chance to laugh at them?
That’s poor, by any standard.
The stories the Beeb don’t tell
Poorer still that the BBC seems to think that its OK to run a funny of this sort from Russia where…just jog my memory…oh, yes: one of the major issues of the last year has been state persecution of the LGBT minority. The passing of laws: tthe encouragement of vigilante violence.
If they wanted a “funny”, they might have picked on Coca-Cola, whose online publicity for the Sochi Games allows individuals to personalise a coke can with any name they like – so long as that name is not “Gay”.
Or if the Beeb really wanted to cover a Russian Trans story, maybe they could have asked me: because the last major trans story i wrote up from Russia was of a trans woman, seeking asylum elsewhere after her treatment at the hands of Russian authorities.
She’d been beaten, stripped, urinated on and left for dead – by the Russian police. Before she left Russia she no longer dared venture on to the streets of the city where she lived.
There’s a trans story for you, BBC. But i suppose its not quite so funny as the one you found. So chances of you ever broadcasting it are – nil.
Last up is the complaints process. As always, since the Beeb got “process” and “system”, there seems to be no way to separate complaint from “excuse me, this is seriously fucked and should come off now”.
Well, i tried. Phoned through to what was once Duty Office, is now called something like Audience Concern. It may have had an effect. Or maybe not.
I was in bed before the next news bulletin.
Besides, its a small thing: trashing an individual’s life; propagating a joke that will be used by all manner of news organisations to reinforce stereotypes about teh tranz.
Its just – silly me! – i had thought the BBC better than that.