There’s a lot of interest in Mick Aston’s resignation, and quite rightly too. I didn’t put his face on the cover of the new magazine for nothing!
There’s also been some misinformation, and not everyone understands how the media work. So I thought I’d round up the key pieces on the web and add a few comments for people who like to know.
This is how the story was broken by the Daily Mail. I alerted the paper to Mick’s departure from Time Team, and when Tamara Cohen asked if she could see the interview in British Archaeology, I gave it to her; I also gave her the News page I had written for the magazine, which puts events into context. I had alerted many other journalists and media outlets at the same time, but yesterday Tamara was one of only three people who asked for more. You can see from the number of comments on the Mail site that her instinct to follow up was right.
Now, I was delighted that she did so. The Mail online is the most read newspaper site anywhere in the world in the English language. The rest of us just do not have its reach. Tamara acknowledged British Archaeology magazine as the story’s source, something that any professionally minded journalist would do. But I or the magazine (or the Council for British Archaeology) have no control over what Tamara chooses to write. As a professionally minded editor and writer (and archaeologist), I recognise that that is exactly how it should be.
This Daily Telegraph piece was taken directly from the Mail (note there is no credited writer). Incredibly, when I read this last night, it was listed as no.4 in the site’s top news stories.
And this was taken from the Telegraph (this is how the media eat each other):
And Yahoo! TV made it its top story of the day:
If you have read the pieces in British Archaeology, you will know that there are no comments there on Mary-Ann Ochota. She was not part of the story I was writing about, except insofar as she was one of two people brought in to “refresh” the team. There were many other people involved I did not write about, too. It should be of no surprise to anyone who knows the Mail, however, that in there she is a big part of the story. She was brought in to do a job, which she did to the best of her ability. It’s the sort of job that can bring with it unpleasantries of the type going around now, which is one reason why some people choose not to work onscreen in TV. The Mail spun the story, but it is members of the public who posted rude and stupid remarks.
Neither on or off the record, in all the conversations I’ve had with Mick over the past couple of months (or with anyone else, for that matter), has he ever spoken of Mary-Ann in a disparaging way. She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And she has not “just” resigned from Time Team in some kind of huff, as is being reported today (below). She worked through the filming of the series currently being broadcast, and after that, last year, it was agreed that she would not return for the series now being filmed.
Note in passing, that headline in the Mail. It seems to say that Mary-Ann left Time Team the day after Mick resigned, which would be today. What those dots actually say, when you read the article, is that the writer found out that Mary-Ann had left Time Team the day after he found out that Mick had: the two events were not connected in the way implied, and both happened last year! Tabloid headline writers are not stupid – and we need to be very alert when we read the press.
There are many sensible and supportive comments about Time Team and Mick on the Mail site, and on the Time Team Facebook page (we can all ignore the dross, we’re grownups). And here are some other useful pages. Mick talking to the Western Daily Press:
And a statement from Tim Taylor, Time Team’s creator:
Tim and I are hoping that he will write more about the future of Time Team in the next edition of British Archaeology. If it hadn’t realised before, Channel 4 must now know that a lot of people out there do care very deeply about their Time Team.