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BBC apologises for Today report suggesting Manchester Evening News is ‘rammed with clickbait’

By Charlotte Tobitt

The BBC has apologised after a report on the Today programme suggested the Manchester Evening News is “just rammed with clickbait and sensationalism”.

The Radio 4 discussion on 23 January was pegged on The Mill, a local journalism newsletter hosted on Substack covering the Greater Manchester area. The Mill became profitable towards the end of last year.

However the discussion, which made comparisons with Reach’s Manchester Evening News in the area, did not “meet our usual editorial standards on a number of different fronts”, the BBC has now admitted.

The report referred to the MEN by name but did not give it a chance to respond to claims made about it, including that local journalism “needs to be rebuilt” so it can offer greater scrutiny, and that its website is “just rammed with clickbait and sensationalism and just kind of about celebrities to be honest”.

Reach objected, telling the BBC “it is not the case that scrutiny is absent or greatly reduced in Manchester or other areas served by a Reach title”. It pointed by way of example to its work uncovering the social housing death of two-year-old Awaab Ishaak, and a recent investigation on grooming, saying this type of journalism sits alongside “regular features which seek to celebrate local life”.

“Reach has also told us The Manchester Evening News online never writes clickbait – stories which mislead in the headline to get people on site – and that TV and celebrity content on the website make up less than 5% of the articles published,” the BBC said in its statement.

In addition, the BBC report referred to the MEN’s print sales but omitted its total online reach of more than 18 million people in the UK in December, saying now that “more detailed facts would have given listeners more context to assess the health of local journalism in Greater Manchester”.

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“We apologise for these lapses in our editorial standards,” the BBC said.

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