What does the witness say...?

It's not enough to just say "oh, it's a member of the public."

Nicola Sturgeon interviewed live on Sky News. We know what her job is.

Right now, news teams across the country are dealing with reporting on the aftermath of the Glasgow attack. It’s a hugely difficult job, trying to triage reporting, user-generated content, statements from politicians and other high-profile figures, information from sources, and other moving parts. It. Is. Not. Easy.

And one aspect that is particularly hard is handling witnesses on the scene. That challenge ranges from duty-of-care questions (Is this person okay to talk about this traumatic thing they have witnessed?) to whether they are safe to put on camera (Will they just swear for a laugh?) and whether they have any kind of agenda that they may piggyback on this moment of attention.

The third question is the one weird interested in this bonus issue. I was watching Sky News live this afternoon when a witness was brought on to talk about the incident in Glasgow. All fine and good. But there was something about his manner of speaking and how vehemently he expressed and reiterated his praise of the police — clearly warranted — that made me want to find out a little bit more about him.

I googled his name, found his LinkedIn and discovered that he is the co-founder of a company that makes bodycams for the police. I tweeted about this — without identifying him, despite him having been on Sky News — and dropped a note to a friend at Sky News to give him a heads up.

The man is obviously entitled to comment on the events he witnessed. It’s also right and proper to praise first responders from going into dangerous situations to protect others. However, it is extremely relevant that he works for a company that sells technology to the police.

Sky News trailed and tailed him as someone who “works for a tech firm.” That’s true, but the fact that he sells things to the police is certainly a factor in how he will interpret the events.

I have heard from a number of people who have compared my checking on this eyewitnesses background with Guido Fawkes decrying NHS workers being interviewed when they are also Labour Party members or other kinds of political activist. I don’t accept that comparison.

I didn’t name the man or imply that he shouldn’t have his views. I just believe context is important in news reporting. My Sky News contact agreed.

Talk tomorrow.

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