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Day in the media: BBC’s Pandagate

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Another day, another Twitterstorm.

Today, the BBC started #pandagate with its female Faces of the year 2011 list, that names a woman who made the headlines for every month of the year, topping it off, in December with…wait for it…a panda.

The list is a motley crew of victims (American congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords for being shot in head or Nafissatou Diallo who accused the IMF’s former head and serial womaniser, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of rape) or women whose crowning glory has been to be in some way associated with a wedding.

In a year like most of us have never seen where two African women won the Nobel Prize and countless others were involved in pro-democracy or pro-equality movements, the best the Beeb could find in November was a certain Corporal Kelsey de Santis, who made headlines for being taken to the Marin Corps ball in Virginia by Justin Timberlake. Big whoop.

The Twittersphere was quick to show its disdain for the list and in no time, #pandagate was a trending topic. Journalists were also quick to comment. The New Statesman’s Laurie Penny wrote: “The thing about pandas is that they’re the most useless evolutionary dead end ever to be preserved, at great expense, in the name of sentiment and nationalist flim-flammery. They’re cowardly. They hate sex.”

Emily Bell, director of Tow Centre for Digital Journalism, was also vocal, tweeting: “We all want the full reveal on exactly how the BBC reached its Women, Faces of the Year 2011. I suspect a random scroll of,” before then giving the BBC some helpful advice:

Lesson for bbc in #pandagate – to put up any old nonsense on web is a poor strategy; there is no page 25Wed Dec 28 12:34:54 via Twitter for iPad


With the male version of the list being only marginally better, the lists’ author Bob Chaundy told the Guardian that the compilation “was supposed to be eclectic and light-hearted and was not in the same league as Time magazine’s person of the year.”

Hmmm, didn’t Kate Middleton make Time magazine’s shortlist? Last I checked, her achievement this year was marrying a prince and looking suitably glossy-haired as she did so.

Still, for the BBC, the damage has been done and out of the ashes of a poorly conceived blog, blogposts have emerged to highlight the achievements of women snubbed and the Twittersphere’s rebuttal, #realwomanoftheyear, has been created. Just another day in the media.


Written by Eliza

December 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm

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