BBC journalist Spackman in Twitter outburst about QUB standards
A BBC reporter has tested the corporation's staff impartiality rules by tweeting that academic standards at Queen's University, Belfast have plummeted - despite the institution being ranked in the top 1% of global universities.
Conor Spackman, who is a journalist on BBC Spotlight, tweeted on Monday: "Sad to walk by QUB and its impressive buildings and know how far it has fallen. Belfast needs better."
Less than an hour later, he added to his 2,924 followers: "I am not talking about the buildings. It is the rapidly deteriorating performance of the university which should alarm people."
He has now made his Twitter account private and it appeared the tweets were deleted before he blocked non-followers from viewing his account.
Spackman (36) has worked for the BBC for almost 12 years since graduating from Oxford.
BBC editorial guidelines state audiences should not feel broadcasters' personal opinions influence output at the corporation.
The BBC guidelines say: 'Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on 'controversial subjects' in any other area.'
A BBC spokesperson said: “BBC Staff will often have privately held social media accounts. These do not reflect the views of the BBC. We encourage editorial staff to exercise discretion in their use of social media and having regard to relevant guidelines.”
Spackman attacked standards at Queen's despite the university's rich heritage and renowned history of producing Nobel Laureates. Alumni includes poet Seamus Heaney, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, and former Northern Ireland First Minister, David Trimble, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998.
On his LinkedIn profile, Spackman's biography says: "I am a reporter at BBC Spotlight. Before that I worked for Panorama and BBC News. Before that I read Classics at Oxford."
He lists his degree in Latin on LinkedIn, which says he went to Oxford from 1998 to 2002 to study Literae Humaniores.
Spackman is the second Spotlight reporter to land himself at the centre of a Twitter controversy in the past month. In June, Stephen Dempster accused the PSNI of being more concerned with their own image than they are about tackling drugs.
The same month, senior BBC broadcast journalist Paul Doran vented on Twitter about how "useless" and "awful" Translink's service was.