“Here is the Snooze,” said the Sun’s front page yesterday. A weird splash in which members of staff on BBC News 24 were shown sitting at their desks with their eyes shut.
In the self-serving way of the Murdoch tabloid, this unpleasant ‘story’ was used as – hey, would you believe it – proof that we shouldn’t be spending our money on a public service broadcaster. Instead we should give it all to Sky and Rupert Murdoch.
I haven’t read the whole story, so I don’t know for sure who crept around the News 24 newsroom, snapping pictures of BBC staff members having a snooze. I don’t really know what this story was trying to say. It’s easy to imagine that working on a 24-news station is hard work, and if you are working all hours it must be tempting to shut your eyes in a lull.
To be honest, I am having trouble keeping my eyes open first thing in the morning after another unmoored night, but there you go. Years ago, a sub-editor at the newspaper in York used to nod off at his desk, mid correction. Everyone else would consider this to be a running joke: oh, look, he’s off again.
Another colleague, still there, used to slump forwards sometimes, but that was because he chose to work stupid hours; almost certainly still does. Sometimes I imagine him in the lonely hours when he shouldn’t be there, eyes shut, furious fingers stilled.
A friend admits that in his management job, he would retreat to his office, shut the door and have a mid-afternoon snooze. Good job he didn’t work for the BBC and fall victim to a spot of industrial espionage sponsored by the Sun’s wide-awake club (whose members never nod off in the office or misbehave in any way).
Sleep disruption is something many people carry with them throughout the day, an invisible deficit duvet. Fully paid-up members of the red-eyed clan who sit down in a lull are almost certain to fall asleep for a blissful moment.
Returning from the lecturing part of my this-and-that life yesterday afternoon, I had a mug of tea, and lay down on the sofa in the conservatory and listened to music, although Seth Lakeman was wasting his time. I was gone in minutes, barely one track into Ballads Of The Broken Few (top album, by the way). Falling asleep so quickly in the day is said to be a sure sign of sleep deficit, but there you go. Or there I go again
Members of the BBC staff responded with wit to the Sun, the best way. Quentin Sommerville, who had been reporting from the streets of Raqqa – “the lazy sod”, as the New Statesman puts it – posted a snap on Twitter of him having a snooze in battledress: “It’s true @TheSun we do sleep on the job. Our work is a bit taxing at times. @BBC News doesn’t do lazy journalism. How about you?”
The BBC press office was awake enough to respond with some statistics on trust – “Even with our eyes closed it’s good to know the public trusts BBC News more than the Sun… 57 per cent to 0.3 per cent. Tiring work.”
This was a reference to 2017 Ipsos MORI research into public trust in the UK media.
It seems a shame to me that the Sun should use its might in such a pathetic way: couldn’t its clout be used for real journalism, rather than underhand point-scoring against the BBC? If those Ipsos MORI findings are to be believed, readers of the Sun must trust the BBC more than the newspaper they hold in their hands.
Anyway, the day awaits – a day on which a surreptitious snooze is out of the question.