Captain Tom Moore / BBC /YouTube

The Lesson Of Captain Tom

Posted February 03, 2021
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Yesterday, sadly, Captain Tom Moore died.

This morning, the entire three hours of BBC Breakfast was devoted to Captain Tom and his story.

It was a story that captured the imgination, the attention and the hearts of all of Britain, and a good part of the rest of the world.

And what was the story?

He had pledged to walk 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday.

That was it.

That was the story.

His family set up a Go Fund Me page, hoping to raise £1,000 by his effot. 

By the time he had finished, he had raised an astonishing £38 million for the NHS, the National Health Service. 

He had also been knighted by the Queen, recorded a number one song on the charts, had a fly-by by the RAF and much more.

How did that happen?  How was it possible that this admittedly very nice old man was able to achieve so much and by raising so much money, bring so much good to so many others?

The answer was that BBC Breakfast stuck with him.


The first time they did his story, he was just a very nice very old man who hoped to raise £1,000 for the NHS by walking in hs garden - back and forth.  Lots of local news would have done it as a one-off, nice old man raises money by walking with his walker or zimmer frame, as we say in the UK. Cute. A kicker, and that would have been the end of it.

But BBC Breakfast did something unusual. They stuck with the story. They kept going back to Captain Tom over and over. They made him into a CHARACTER.

And, in a kind of virtuous circle, the more they kept coming back to him, the more people contributed to the fund. The more people contributed to the fund, the more the story took on a life of its own.

£1,000 became £10,000 became £100,000 became a million became ten million.  

Virtuous circle.

Over time, the Captain Tom story captured the nation's attention.  Credit to Captain Tom, but in all honesty all he did was walk back and forth in his garden. Real credit to BBC Breakfast for sticking with the character and never letting go.

That was the real genius here. 

Now, TV news could do this all the time - create a local hero, a character with a small story that we keep coming back to.

And look at the good that this story did.  News can do more than just bad news, scary news, police tape stories. News can do more than just cover a story. News can be a force for good.  

So farewell Captain Tom - or rather now Sir Captain Tom. RIP.  But kudos also to The BBC.  Well done!  

Never have so few done so much for so many, we might say.  


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