NEWS, so it is said, is something someone somewhere doesn’t want you to know.
A leading politician, for instance, would not want you to know he was a paedophile.
And he most certainly would not want you to know it if the allegation was utterly untrue.
The BBC’s handling of such an allegation against former Conservative Party treasurer Lord McAlpine has been disastrous from start to finish.
The Newsnight programme that alleged, without naming him, he was part of a paedophile ring at a North Wales children’s home was unverified journalism at its worst.
It appears the Newsnight team - led by reporters from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism agency – simply believed everything abuse victim Steven Messham said.
There were no checks and balances on the story. They did not put his allegations to McAlpine. They did not even show Messham a photograph of McAlpine.
The BBC would have led the criticism of such lazy, gungho journalism if it had been practised by one of the redtop national newspapers.
The BBC is in crisis as a result. The Director-General, who appears to have known nothing about anything going on in his organisation, has gone. Other senior editorial figures will go.
Newsnight will not survive and the BBC faces a huge battle to restore public trust in its journalism.
It is a battle we hope it wins but it is an uphill task.