April 01, 2008

Liberman to move to BBC

In a major personnel shock, it was announced today that Mark Liberman is to leave Language Log to move to the Science News section of the BBC. Negotiations had apparently been under way for some time. Liberman's openly critical attitude toward the science reporting standards of the BBC (the organization that first brought the phenomenon of tricapital amphibia to the attention of the world's biologists) had suggested, to the few who knew of the ongoing discussions, that the BBC would fail in its bid to recruit him. But his critical stories were in fact a cover. Liberman said today, "I have a high regard for the BBC's upper-crust pomposity and tabloid-like credulity. And above all, I have a high regard for the ratio of its salary levels to those of Language Log. When plotted on a logarithmic scale, they absolutely go through the roof."

The salary Dr Liberman has been offered is reputed to exceed that of Natasha Kaplinsky, who was recruited away from the BBC last year by Five News. The BBC's move is widely regarded in the industry as the first step in a contest to fight back against Five. It is not clear whether Liberman will still be free to write anything for Language Log under the terms of his new contract. Language Log lawyers were reviewing his no-compete clause when this article was posted.

Reactions at One Language Log Plaza were muted today; senior staff who had not known about the possibility that Liberman would go were clearly stunned. Some wept openly at the water cooler. Cleanup crews were dispatched. Geoffrey Nunberg, Language Log writer and NPR superstar, who on one occasion dashed a glass of chardonnay in Liberman's face during an argument about prescriptivism, said: "If it could have kept Mark here, I would give anything to be able to take that glass of chardonnay back — and drink it."

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at April 1, 2008 06:35 AM