Jeremy Paxman’s journalistic contributions and controversy acknowledged

Paxman is said to be delighted with the Media Society award

AT THIS year’s Media Society annual award dinner to be held in London’s Landmark Hotel, the contributions made to TV broadcasting and journalism will be presented to Jeremy Paxman.  Throughout the evening’s proceedings, John Mair – an active member of the Media Society, and a senior lecturer in journalism at Coventry University – will be producing a number of dinner-speaker video packages.

Guest speakers who have confirmed their presence include the Channel 4 News presenter, Jon Snow, and former editor of Newsnight but now Google’s press chief, Peter Barron.  Both of these individuals have also been guest speakers at the highly popular and successful ‘Coventry Conversations’ media lecture as organised by Mair and Coventry University.

Paxman has remained a controversial and uncompromising media figure, and has never been one to shy away from unearthing the truth, as the Rt Hon Michael Howard QC MP will testify – another of the evening’s guest speakers. When Howard was Home Secretary, he was asked the same question by Paxman 12 times on Newsnight in 1997: “Did you threaten to overrule Derek Lewis, Mr Howard?”

Mair revealed that it was he who took the decision to ask Michael Howard along to the evening, and that the Conservative MP was “more than happy to accept” the prospect of being able to celebrate Paxman’s success.

This incongruous persistence is perhaps Paxman’s biggest downfall, however, as he demonstrated in late February of last year.  Having repeatedly ‘misquoted’ Jersey’s chief minister, Frank Walker, Paxman then apologised for the mistake in an ‘inappropriate tone’ according to the BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee.

Such mishaps have occurred before, and no doubt they will do again, but they fail to faze or unsettle Paxman, or indeed his rigid and uncompromising journalistic mannerisms, even if he is branded as ‘unpleasant’ by businessman, Sir Alan Sugar for reportedly poking fun at the BBC programme, the Apprentice.  Satirical some might say considering Sir Alan’s boardroom conduct…

I personally don’t want humble. I want facts and truth. I think that being edgy is good, unafraid vital, curious fundamental.  Being humble, no.

Speaking to the Media Society’s President, Geraldine Sharpe Newton, she said Paxman warrants the award because he, like many of the previous awardees, has and continues to make a real difference to the media profession of journalism: “We (the Media council) believe that Paxman is a journalist working to the highest standards.

“I think of him as one of the best of that breed of journalistic surgeons – an interviewer with forensic skills, not afraid to ask the difficult question, and ask it again and again. He seeks to get below the spin and today with all the information that is available it is important that we have journalists that take the time to analyze, to question, to probe.  Getting to the truth has to be good doesn’t it?”

In previous years, awards have been presented to David Dimbleby of Question Time, John Humphrys of Radio 4’s Today programme, chat show host Sir Michael Parkinson CBE, and Paul Dacre who is the current editor of the Daily Mail and editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT).

Sharpe Newton will be making the award to Jeremy Paxman, and when asked if she believed the Newsnight presenter would be in anyway humbled by the recognition, she explained that in order “to be a great journalist, being humble is not what they do”.

“I personally don’t want humble,” added Sharepe Newton, “I want facts and truth. I think that being edgy is good, unafraid vital, curious fundamental.  Being humble, no.  But being gracious, generous and delighted, yes, and that is what Jeremy will be on the night,” she added.

Journalism and media students who would like to join the Media Society can do so for less than £35 a year, and allows members to meet with prolific guest speakers, to stay up-to-date with the latest media developments, and have the opportunity to network with media figures – formally and informally.

  • If you would like to join the Media Society, then please click here

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