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  • Nelly Laycock

Huw Edwards and the Problems of a Modern-Day Scandal

Illustrations by Megan Le Brocq

Early July saw Huw Edwards become the latest presenter to face scrutiny over claims that he paid a teenager for explicit images. From the Sun’s initial exposé to Twitter’s game of ‘Guess Huw’, the real details in this case have been forgotten, replaced by blow after blow of attacks in what the Guardian is calling ‘the battle of the right-wing press against the BBC’. Edwards’ allegations were turned into a proxy battle in a war between publications, leading anyone who took the allegations seriously to disappointment.

Tweeting that ‘the Sun is a disgusting rag’, Owen Jones joined those who maintained the stance that the Sun’s article was an invasion of privacy. Just as quickly as attacks were initially hurled at Edwards, conclusions have been drawn that just because the presenter has not been charged with any crime the story is nonsense.

In the scrabble to take the moral high-ground and protect their own backs, the initial allegations have been overshadowed. The fact that Edwards was already under investigation by the BBC who had received three separate complaints about the presenter sending inappropriate messages has been forgotten. With the recent acquittal of Kevin Spacey after nine sexual offences, it seems that society is beginning to lose sight of any progress made by the #MeToo movement.

The BBC should not be criticised for taking allegations seriously, especially having had Jimmy Saville under their payroll for decades. The transparency with which it does this should not be scrutinised, especially as the Sun refuses to comment on its own investigation into former employee Dan Wootton who offered tens of thousands of pounds to colleagues in return for explicit images.

Research demonstrates a wider trend in which sexual misconduct is not being taken seriously. The Evening Standard recently published a report on the extreme backlog of cases of rape and assault within the judicial system, followed by another study which found that figures of victims successful in sexual assault cases was even lower than initially presumed. Shoved at the bottom of last week’s paper, I would not be surprised if you missed both of these. Even attempts to make a difference are filled with deep misunderstanding – demonstrated by the launch of Sadiq Kahn’s new campaign, ‘Say maaate to a mate’, hoping to banish sexism by empowering men to step in when they witness misogynistic behaviour, supported by LADBible.

As the Edwards case began to unravel, journalists were so quick to change their initial opinions, insinuating that it was not the allegations which mattered to them, but rather their own reputations. Perhaps this is a result of the 24/7 news cycle created by smart phones, with most people able to access the news at all times, leaving journalists under even greater pressure to write with pace, leading to works which lack consideration. Perhaps this is inevitable, news should be new, however, with platforms like Instagram and TikTok our attention spans are shorter than ever, so journalists must grip the reader, as well as informing them. Producing the latest stories is not the only priority, it is to attract the most readers. Whether the Edwards allegations had truth to them was not important, it was only the drama they offered.

Maria Schrader’s movie ‘She Said’, presents the careful consideration involved in the New York Times’ investigation into the abuse and sexual misconduct of Harvey Weinstein. Yes, this is a film, but the care in uncovering this case does not seem to be reflected today. Journalists are desperate to relay the latest injustices, but I am not convinced they hold any integrity.

Whilst free speech is important, the desperation to be ahead of the curb, results in a dangerous lack of consideration towards what is published, often at the expense of the case and those involved. How many times will the trail of broken people lead to the press’s door? In the case of Edwards both his family and the family of his supposed accuser ultimately lost out – demonstrating that the industry has not changed since the tragic death of Caroline Flack. Violence is in our nature, since the dawn of time we as humans have gone to see public hangings, perhaps why Edwards faced the same within the media.

As Love Island’s viewing figures plummet, real people's lives should not be a replacement. Social media’s initial attack on the BBC presenter was outrageous, however the broadcasting house should continue to investigate these allegations, after all, there is no smoke without fire. Unlike the politicians they criticise, journalists need to hold on to their integrity and not change with the mainstream. Editors need to increase coordination among writers and prioritise justice even if this means a slight delay in publishing.

The inaccuracies and changing allegations in the case against Edwards highlight that the press face serious problems over reporting standards. With the limited coverage of the Women’s World Cup, to the attacks on Angela Rose, to the lack of reporting into insufficient standards of sexual assault cases in the judicial system, the Huw Edwards case is just another exposing the ongoing inequalities within the press. Reactions in the media and workplace culture show that although the outcome of the allegations against Edwards are unclear, what is for sure is that the media is subject to the same problems which continue to plague our society.


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