Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The One Show: Lessons learned?

In my last post on this subject, I wrote about my dismay at the BBC’s lack of responsibility in putting inexperienced dog trainer Jordan Shelley on The One Show in the alarmingly titled ‘Fix my Dog’ segment. Since then, things have moved on apace, with some heartening news regarding Jordan and yet more disappointment in the BBC’s attitude.

Last week, The One Show has dropped Jordan like a hot brick. On last Thursday’s show we saw a cut-and-paste ‘debate’ in which sensible things were said via a mix of VT and studio interviews that ensured none of the participants actually interacted with each other. Presenter Matt Baker told viewers that they should not have described Jordan Shelley as the show’s dog training expert, rather as somebody they were following. Then on Friday came the announcement that the show would not be continuing with its ‘Fix my Dog’ slot. The whole thing was made to look as if the presenters or scriptwriters were to blame for the whole fiasco, rather than a lack of professionalism, research and best practice on the part of the BBC.

Despite my dismay at his training techniques, I had to sympathise with Jordan. Whatever his failings, it’s obvious that he’s absolutely devoted to dogs and he wants to make a career of training them. Of course, devotion isn't enough to make a great dog trainer, and Jordan’s approach to dog training amply illustrated the maxim that ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’. But I can’t help feeling that the BBC let him down every bit as much as they did the rest of us.

If the BBC had acted with any responsibility, they would not have accepted Jordan as their dog expert – in fact, they might have advised him to get some qualifications and experience and then come back. But leaving that aside, once the complaints started pouring in, they would also have held up their hands and admitted that they were to a large extent responsible for what the viewers saw. It was the BBC that decided to make a star of Jordan; the BBC that didn’t think an experienced professional would be better qualified to give advice on dog training; the BBC that constantly denied there was anything wrong with the slot; and the BBC that then dropped their ‘star’ and moved on as if nothing had happened.

Meanwhile, just as his career seemed to be taking off in a spectacular way, Jordan suddenly found himself an object of hostility for many of the country’s dog owners. How awful it must have been to see that career on the brink of crumbling about his ears, almost as soon as it had begun. But it seems that for all his youth and inexperience, Jordan has responded to this difficult situation in a positive and mature way that puts the BBC to shame.

During all the comings and goings of what must have been a nightmare week for Jordan, Dogs Today editor Beverley Cuddy had asked on her ColdWetNose blog whether any dog trainers would like to show him how it’s done. Now, Jordan has called Beverley to say he’d like to take up any opportunities to learn more about the profession he clearly loves. He’s not bleating about all the negative criticism; he’s enthusiastic about the chance to learn from the experts.

What will become of Jordan Shelley remains to be seen, but his attitude says he’s got the tenacity and commitment – and soon, hopefully, the knowledge– to make a very good dog trainer one day. I admire his attitude and I wish him luck in his career. And if he does pop up on our screens again in a few years’ time, I hope the lessons he’s learned about working with the media will stand him in good stead too.

I also hope that the BBC are doing some serious thinking about their responsibilities, but I fear that may be too much to ask.

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