A BBC lifer and its director-general from 2004 until earlier this year, Thompson was named CEO of the foundering New York Times Company effective next month. The Gray Lady herself has now reported: Thompson had discussions with BBC management about the story on Savile that never was, before it wasn’t. The one he denied knowing anything about, except that he did.
In bizarre fashion, the New York Times reporters who interviewed Thompson at the Times’ headquarters allowed him to refer only to anonymous “senior management in BBC News” that he spoke with about Savile. This, of course, freed the Times from any obligation to follow up with those figures and to find out whether Thompson was telling the truth about saying nothing to them about killing the story on Savile. Uncovering problems with his statement would, of course, damage his new prospects in Manhattan.
Even more bizarre, the story refers only to an anonymous “New York Times spokesman” when reporting the paper’s statement that it still expected Thompson to join the paper next month, and makes no attempt to grill that spokesman about the implications.
The Times’ own public editor is highly dubious about Thompson and the Times’ coverage of him. The comments on her blog post overwhelmingly call for Thompson’s ouster. She specifically challenged the paper’s reporters, stating:
I hope the Times rises to the challenge and thoroughly reports what it finds. The Times might start by publishing an in-depth interview with Mr. Thompson exploring what exactly he knew, and when, about what happened at the BBC.
That’s exactly what the paper did not do. Instead, its “reporting” only helps Thompson and the paper sweep the whole mess under the carpet.