BBC NEWSNIGHT star presenter Jeremy Paxman is never known to mince his words. He didn’t when receiving the Annual Media Society Award last Thursday evening in London. The Great Inquisitor attacked the BBC – which he said was “in a vortex of its own making”, saying: “People at the top are no longer interested in what we do or how we do it,” writes John Mair.
This to an audience that included the BBC Director of News, Helen Boaden, Stephen Mitchell her Deputy, and no less that six former or present Editors of Newsnight. Paxman was stinging in his criticism of the cuts in the media outside the BBC too, saying: “It was now cheaper to print opinion than the truth”, and evidenced the way that some major American papers no longer had a fulltime correspondent or even a stringer in London. He described the current situation as “depressing”.
Paxman, who has now presented Newsnight for twenty years, was the subject of paeans of public praise from his bosses past – including Robin Walsh who gave him his first reporter’s job in BBC Northern Ireland thirty five years ago to Peter Barron, the last ‘Newsnight’ editor who had forced Paxman into the digital twenty first century and to do a (short lived) weather forecast on the programme.
He tells glittering Media Society audience: I’m no longer interested in what we do or how we do it.
The tributes were all warm especially from his most high profile victim – former Home Secretary, Michael Howard of whom Paxman famously asked the same question twelve times in 1997. Time had healed the rift.
It was not all downbeat. Paxman said that if he had his time again he would still join ‘our trade’ and become a journalist as he had at 23. “I’ve spent my life talking to amusing people. It is an incredible privilege to work with thoughtful, clever, funny people,” and saluted the teams who had made it all possible. “There are no solos in television – everything is collaborative. Even the gargantuan egos!” he added.
On journalism, for this British giant, the basic premises were still there and it was still the same basic job. To be good, it just needed one to be “curious” and have “instinct”. Plus plenty of Chutzpah in ‘Paxo’s’ case.
Article courtesy of journalism lecturer, John Mair, and picture courtesy of Chris O’Donovan