LIVE: How a weasel flying a woodpecker led to 34 million web hits for BBC

By Simon Crowe

A picture of a weasel hitching a ride on the back of a flying woodpecker led to one of journalist Declan Wilson’s most popular pieces of work for the BBC gaining over 34.3 million hits online.

Wilson was intrigued when he came across the picture on Twitter and flagged it up to the news desk who eventually proved it was not a fake.

He was told it was going on the News at Six and online and a week later he received an email saying the post had reached over 34 million people and it became the BBC’s most liked post of 2015.

The post was shared 180,000 times and led to spoof posts like Russian President Vladmir Putin riding the woodpecker.

Declan Wilson told to the audience at Leeds Trinity University’s Journalism Week: “The story just came from me browsing Twitter. I was bowled over, I knew we were living in a more connected world then when I first started as a journalist but I thought jeez, if only my job was as easy as that everyday! Wasn’t I lucky? I haven’t had a story like that since and probably never will again.”

“Twitter is fantastic it gives you a little taste of a lot of things.”

 Declan joked that students had been treated to a very expensive meal being served the finest raw steak in the form of  Channel 4 News’ chief correspondent Alex Thomson and now he would be the cheese board.

“Hopefully there will be something you’ll like and that will be interesting.”

He has helped deliver some of the biggest headline news stories in the UK in the last ten years, such as the Whitehaven shootings, the
search for Shannon Matthews, the floods of 2015, the Hillsborough Inquests and the murder of MP Jo Cox.

Declan is currently launching the BBC’s Korean service, using the experience of his 27 years in the field to provide an unbiased take on the world’s news across both North and South Korea. 

He began his career as a runner for the Sunday Mirror, and remembers watching the newsroom ‘come to life’ as a big IRA story unfolded in 1988, which he describes as his ‘trigger’ to become a journalist. 

“All the professionals around me went ‘woah’ and I thought this is big news. I saw everyone on the blower but my job was just to make everyone tea. That defined the moment that I wanted to go forward as a journalist.”

He went on to talk about how he went into BBC production and worked on various situations such as Iraq and Afghanistan and major court cases such as serial killer Harold Shipman.

He later worked at the BBC Northern Bureau, which oversees local coverage in the north of England and provides coverage of major news stories to the national programmes.

Declan launched the BBC’s Korean Service earlier this year and said: “My current project is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in the BBC.”


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