thinking about archaeology

Let’s catch up with Mick

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.

8 responses

  1. Iestyn

    To me Mick Aston and Stuart Ainsworth are two of the great contributors to Time Team. The Gateholm episode this series didn’t seem the same without Mick. It was reminiscent of that poor series Extreme Archaeology which was more concerned with access routes than the archaeology. Awful. Why did TT feel the need to ‘mend’ what wasn’t broken!

    Dr Iestyn Jones
    Cardiff

    February 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm

  2. Like all projects team members can change. It depends who they bring in. Experience and knowledge should be the rule, plus communication skills, not looks or age. But this is TV and it is in their DNA to find pretty/handsome people. It happens in commercial archaeology too – look at the CBA Community Archaeology Bursary Scheme!

    February 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm

  3. Jon

    So so sorry to hear that Mick will not be on time team.

    This show really made my Saturday mornings and the precious trio of MA TR and PH was magic – stupid stupid stupid Channel 4 for messing around with a fantastic team.

    We do not need dumbed down factual progs – we have the US and Discovery Channel
    for inferior presentations where the presentators “personality” shines over the actual subject matter.

    The beauty of time team was three really great characters but where in the end the subject matter took precedence.

    Once quality TV is lost I am not sure we will get it back. There is so much pressure
    these days to conform to the US format where the sheer volume and forcefullness of the presentors voice and artifically animated face and gestures are supposed to somehow make up for genuine content. British TV is still managing against the odds of trends elsewhere to continue to make absolute gems.

    So sad that the suits at channel 4 are so out of touch that they think tinkering will
    improve the show – sometimes you have a gem and any messing will be detrimental –
    Faulty Towers could not have been improved, Scrap heap challenge could not be improved and neither could Time Team.

    Agghhhhhhhhhhhhh

    Best wishes Jon

    Channel 4 – Get your act together – talk to MA and the others and see if you cannot
    persuade Mick to come back on board – you have screwed up big time but I hope
    Mick’s mind may be changed if you lot realise you have made a mistake and just be
    honest about it – you might even be respected for it!!!

    February 18, 2012 at 10:17 am

    • Leslyn Lang

      I liked Time Team. Didn’t know of it until this summer. The US and Discovery Channel doesn’t dumb down the science. In some cases, the science is way above the average person’s understanding. But it is a craft to take something very complicated and make it understandable to the audience it has. Discovery Channel has some really great programs. I still don’t understand why there is the constant need to build up the Brits and tear down the US. Both offer great programs.

      August 13, 2014 at 3:28 am

  4. Pingback: Time Up for Time Team? | Bagotbooks's Blog

  5. The Bumblebee

    I’ve only just found out about all this – well after the event. Gutted.. Mick in many ways was/is ‘Time Team’.. Channel 4 or the production company need to think very carefully about their priorities and their loyal audiences – who in many cases (inc. myself) have followed the show since day 1.. Look at all the excellent work Mick does with the Worcester Young Archaeologists too – you can’t say that he doesn’t try to put across the genre across the years.. Shame on you (whomever’s blunder) caused Mick’s departure..

    April 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm

  6. mikepitts

    Worth checking out British Archaeology magazine May/June 2012, which features two pages of readers’ responses to Mick’s departure https://mikepitts.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/new-british-archaeology/

    April 15, 2012 at 6:17 pm

  7. Maureen.

    We watch time team most every eve her in australia. Love it. The whole group and their knowledge is waht makes it. Quite a few “just ordinary” people here like,love watching the programme with its characters with all their knowledge. What the hell is going on? Maureen in OZ

    January 30, 2013 at 10:44 am

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