Medicine And The Media

Sanitising horror for the public good

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 06 January 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:62
  1. Joshua Rozenberg

    All journalists want their work to be noticed: that's why they write for a living. Commonly enough their work is ignored, but those of us covering the trial of Rosemary West this autumn discovered an entirely new phenomenon. Our work was not simply ignored, but shunned—readers and viewers told us they simply did not want to know about the evidence against Mrs West, which led to her conviction on 10 counts of murder.

    After the main prosecution statements at the committal proceedings earlier in the year, we had warned our editors about the nature of the evidence we expected, and most newspapers and broadcasters had decided how much detail their audiences could take.

    At the BBC we set our own limits. These were never spelt out in detail, but there was broad agreement among everyone responsible for our coverage. At one point in the trial we announced on air that we would not be …

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