The BBC was bombarded with angry messages after publishing a story which insinuated that a paramedic at the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing wasn’t proactive enough. It appears that the article was later modified.
On Tuesday, the public broadcaster ran a piece about an inquiry into the 2017 terror attack that saw 22 killed by a suicide bomber at an Ariana Grande concert.
The article relays the testimony of Patrick Ennis, who was the first paramedic to reach the arena, some twenty minutes after the blast. He explained to the hearing that he did not immediately begin to offer medical assistance to victims, but instead spent more than an hour triaging patients and identifying those who urgently needed emergency care.
He said that he recognized that some may view his initial response as a “brutal way to approach the situation” but stressed that he had been trained to assess major incidents in order to ensure those with serious injuries receive first priority.
He added that security concerns may have prevented more paramedics from reaching the scene of the blast in a timely manner.
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While the BBC offered a sober retelling of his testimony, the article’s headline was slightly more sensational.
According to Google search caches, it appears that the BBC published the story under the headlines, “Manchester Arena Inquiry: Paramedic never gave treatment to victims” and “Arena bomb paramedic did not treat victims.”
The headlines’ odd angle caught the attention of social media users, who fired off dozens of angry comments directed at the broadcaster.
The headline was deemed “disgusting,” “despicable” and “abysmal,” with many noting that the paramedic had likely saved lives by doing what he was trained to do and setting up triage.
— Kyle (@TheCelticMedic) May 25, 2021
One displeased observer dubbed the BBC the “British Clickbait Corporation,” while others said they had filed formal complaints about the article.
— 🎲✨ᠻꪶꪮ᭙ꫀ᥅᥇ꫀᦔᧁ᥅ꪶ💙🌈 (@flowerbedgrl) May 26, 2021
It appears that at some point the BBC rewrote the headline, which now reads: “Manchester Arena Inquiry: Paramedic tells of bomb scene.” However, the BBC shared the revised article with a teaser: “Paramedic never gave treatment to victims of Manchester Arena bombing, inquiry hears.”
This isn’t the first time that the BBC has been accused of misrepresenting how first responders reacted to the deadly bombing. A senior Manchester police official penned a letter to the broadcaster in 2018 after it aired a documentary on the Manchester Arena attack, in which the organisation is accused of “misleading” reporting.
In his letter, Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said that it was inaccurate of the BBC to suggest that the police held back officers. He also said that the broadcaster incorrectly stated that law enforcement had refused to take part in the ‘Manchester: the Night of the Bomb’ documentary, which aired on the one-year anniversary of the terror attack.
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