A few weeks ago, Sean O’Neill, the crime correspondent of The Times, claimed that Lord Hope, the former Archbishop of York, had covered up allegations that a senior Anglican clergyman had abused choirboys and school pupils.
You have to have worked in a newsroom to know how hard it is to break a story like that. How do you get victims to talk to you? How do you know whether you can trust them? Accusations of sexual abuse are hard to prove. In the absence of forensic evidence, impossible to find years after the alleged event, they often come down to “he says, she says” or in the case of many paedophiles, “he says, he says.” Then there are Britain’s ferocious libel laws to navigate.
Nevertheless, O’Neill stood-up the story, and went home convinced that he and The Times would receive some credit for publishing. The next morning the Today programme reported: “It has emerged that the former Archbishop of York had covered up allegations that a senior Anglican clergyman had abused choirboys and school pupils.”
Emerged? Does the BBC think that stories appear like rocks at low tide? Does it imagine that passers-by can point their fingers and say, “Oh look, evidence of corrupt political donations has emerged”?