Nick Robinson: ‘I got too close to government in reporting Iraq’

The BBC’s political editor regrets:

The biggest self-criticism I have was [that] I got too close to government in the reporting of the Iraq war. I didn’t do enough to go away and say ‘well hold on, what about the other side?’ It is the one moment in my recent career where I have thought I didn’t push hard enough, I didn’t question enough and I should have been more careful.

Robinson offered this candid self-assessment in a debate on political campaigners and reporters at City University last night — as reported by one of my journalism students, Michael Haddon, for journalism.co.uk, and on his own blog. Michael also wrote about Iain Dale’s comments on political reporting (and on his blog).

As for the government line on weapons of mass destruction, Robinson said:

I don’t think the government did set out to lie about weapons of mass destruction. I do think they systematically and cumulatively misled people.

What’s the distinction? It was clear to me that Alastair Campbell knew how what he was saying was being reported, knew that that was a long way from the truth, and was content for it so to be. They knew it was wrong, they wanted it to be wrong – they haven’t actually lied.

Footnote to Michael and someone at Journalism.co.uk: check spelling — it’s Alastair not Alistair (corrected in quote above). Bring back the subs!

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