Nick Robinson – The Matrix Database

Nick Robinson – impartial BBC journalist and…former Chairman of Oxford University Young Conservatives

The Matrix Project is an effort to document personal factors that undermine powerful journalists’ claims of objectivity and impartiality. Are factors such as an elite education, establishment connections, personal wealth and interests in rival fields compatible with journalistic integrity? 

This page looks at BBC journalist Nick Robinson. For more information on the database click here.

Education

Learn about the significance of a private/Oxbridge education here

Nick Robinson attended the private/independent Cheadle Hulme school before reading politics, philosophy and economics at University College, Oxford (source)

Revolving Door

Learn about the significance of the Revolving Door here

Nick Robinson had a great deal of involvement in Conservative groups during his youth. He was National Chairman of the Young Conservatives in 1986 (source)

“Establishment” Connections

Learn about the significance of Establishment Connections here

Primary

None

Secondary

Nick Robinson’s childhood friend Will Redhead was the son of the Today programme presenter Brian Redhead. The Independent report that Brian Redhead “went on to be a mentor to Robinson until his death in 1994.” Robinson himself has saidI got to know Brian Redhead because I was best friends from the age of eight with his younger son, Will andin an unformed way I wanted to do his (Redhead’s) job. I just thought isn’t that great, how fabulous.”

As well as his high-profile role as National Chairman of the Young Conservatives, Robinson was a founder member of Macclesfield Young Conservatives, Cheshire Young Conservative Chairman (1982-1984) and President of the Oxford University Conservative Association (source)

Salary/Indications of Wealth

Learn about the significance of journalists with an unusual level of wealth here

Nick Robinson was the 23rd highest earner on the BBC’s “stars salaries” list in 2020-21 with an annual salary of £270,000-£274,999 (source)

As a point of reference, the Office for National Statistics list the average UK salary for 2021 as £26,193

Complaints / apologies / controversies

Learn about the significance of complaints/apologies here

Attacker “of Muslim appearance” apology – The BBC received a number of complaints following Nick Robinson’s report on the Woolwich terrorist attack, in which he quoted a police source as saying the attackers were “of Muslim appearance”. “I’m sorry for using a phrase that, on reflection, was both liable to be misinterpreted and to cause offence,” Robinson said (source)

Scottish Independence Referendum complaints – Nick Robinson’s coverage of the Indyref led to crowds of between 1,000 and 2,000 gathering outside the BBC headquarters in Glasgow to demand Robinson’s resignation. Robinson had been accused of “heckling” Alex Salmond during the campaign and editing a piece to make it look as though the then-First Minister hadn’t answered a question put to him. The BBC Complaints Unit found that Robinson’s report had been “in line with our editorial guidelines” (source)

IN THEIR OWN WORDS…

It was the job then and it is the job now for the BBC, for journalism in general, to challenge those in power, to test their claims and expose their failures as well as to inform, educate and explain.

Nick ROBINSON

It was my job to report what those in power were doing or thinking… That is all someone in my sort of job can do

NICK ROBINSON, contradicting the above?
(‘“Remember the last time you shouted like that?” I asked the spin doctor’, The Times, 16 July, 2004)

The build-up to the invasion of Iraq is the point in my career when I have most regretted not pushing harder and not asking more questions

NICK ROBINSON, CLARIFYING which of the TWO PREVIOUS statements he adheres to when it matters most?
(‘Live From Downing Street’, Bantam Books, London, 2012, p. 332)

Summary

Nick Robinson’s attended a private school and Oxbridge. He was heavily involved in the Conservative Party. He has a personal connection, dating from childhood, to influential journalist Brian Redhead. He earns more than 10 times the salary of the average Briton. By his own admission, he did not push hard enough and ask enough questions in the build up to the Iraq War.

Impartial? Independent? Holding the powerful to account?

Learn more about the Matrix Project here.

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