On May, 23 2012 Newsnight broadcast a piece about the government’s proposals to cut housing benefit for young people. The BBC used Shanene Thorpe, an employee of Tower Hamlets Council, as a case study, and misrepresented her in the piece as an unemployed, single mother.
Shanene has in fact worked, or been in work related training since she left school. By publicising the piece, the BBC broke the basic journalistic tenets of accuracy and fairness, and they have finally published an apology to Shanene for any distress that the piece may have caused her.
I am delighted that at long last Newsnight has seen fit to apologise to Shanene, although it would have been better had the apology come directly from the reporter responsible, Allegra Stratton. I would like to congratulate Shanene on her spirited campaign, one which gained the support of tens of thoudsands of people who were appalled by the way in which she was treated.
The Government is forcing through unprecedented changes to the welfare state that will severely impact on people’s lives. So, it is important for media to avoid crude stereotypes of welfare claimants and single mothers, which exacerbate the difficult situations that they may be facing.