Today programme in pooh-pooh shock!

It isn’t often that I stop in my tracks whilst listening to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. Shout at it, yes; tweet in response to an interviewee’s ridiculous observation on the NHS/education/politicians/oil prices (delete as appropriate), yes; but stop? Rarely. However, on this occasion, stop I did.

Was it as a result of gross injustice? Blatant manipulation? Obfuscation? I’m afraid not. Instead, my morning routine was halted by the BBC’s Africa correspondent, Andrew Harding, reporting that President Jacob Zuma had pooh-poohed the idea of the current energy crisis in South Africa being due to his lack of leadership.

This is serious. No, I don’t mean the scheduled blackouts and the threats to stability in South Africa; I mean a BBC correspondent using pooh-poohed in a Today programme news report. ‘Dismissed’ or ‘rejected’ – perfectly acceptable, but pooh-poohed? It just doesn’t seem…proper.

It reminded me a little of Seth MacFarlane’s Ted – how some things are just so inappropriate that I struggle to get past the inappropriateness. A foul-mouthed bear? Funny if you’re a fan of the Hangover films, but disquieting, nay, alarming if you’re not into the puerile humour of blokey ‘comedies’. (Ted 2 coming soon! Whoopee do!)

Back in November, Ian Jolly, the BBC newsroom’s ‘style editor’, admitted that they were no longer the bastion of correct English on radio and television. Mistakes happen on live broadcasts; I don’t have a problem with that. But to choose, check, record and approve pooh-poohed in a serious report on a country’s increasing political tension – the plot has been well and truly lost.

The point of my ramblings? Context is everything. I don’t mind that football pundits churn out clichés (Alan Shearer is a graduate of life, not Oxbridge) or that Eastenders now requires subtitles, innit, but I would prefer my political reporting to be a little more, dare I say, formal.

If you want your message to be heard and you want to maintain credibility, make sure your words are APT: when you know your audience, ensure your words are fit for purpose and use appropriate techniques to communicate with them. Any good English teacher (and PR practitioner) knows that!

So come on BBC – world leaders don’t pooh-pooh, at least not on the Today programme.

P.S. The Catholic Herald isn’t pleased with the Today programme either!

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