War reporters hit back at tie jibes

Leading journalists have dismissed claims by former BBC royal correspondent-turned PR man Michael Cole that the trend among war reporters not to wear ties is disrespectful and distracts viewers from what is being reported.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Cole said BBC journalists like Ben Brown, Jeremy Bowen and Huw Edwards who were tie-less while reporting from the Middle East, looked like "something out of the '80s cop show Miami Vice".

He wrote: "When reporting on a war with daily deaths, it is utterly disrespectful to be standing in an open-necked shirt, looking as if you are dressed for the beach."

The BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, told Press Gazette: "I don't think being respectful, especially, as Michael says, when people are dying, is anything to do with wearing a piece of coloured material around my neck. It is about how you behave, how you speak, what you say, and whether you treat people decently. Reporters should respect local customs. When I interviewed the Lebanese prime minister, and the speaker of the house, who always dress formally, I wore a suit and tie. But in Lebanon almost no one outside the air-conditioned offices of embassies and ministries wears a tie, or a jacket for that matter.

So most of the time, neither do I."

Brown, the BBC's world affairs correspondent, said that in 20 years of reporting for the BBC from conflict zones and disaster areas this was the first time that he had received any complaint over his decision not to wear a tie.

"When I'm presenting in the studio I wear a tie. I don't think there is any hard and fast rule, and in the end it is incredibly hot and sweaty out there so I think a jacket and tie would have been a bit extreme to be honest."

Even tie-wearer extraordinaire Jon Snow failed to see the relevance of Cole's remarks. He said: "People are dying in Lebanon and Israel and we are asked to question what newsreaders are wearing. I ask you, what planet are we on?"

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