The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, January 29, 2004

BBC journalism, tough interviewing, not getting carried away...

The NPR ombud Jeffrey Dvorkin has a piece on the Dick Cheney interview on Morning Edition on January 22. There'd been complaints about softball questioning.

Which led to Dvorkin raising the BBC comparison:
Many asked why NPR is not more like the BBC. However the "in-your-face" interview style as practiced by the BBC ("Oh come on Prime Minister. Do you really expect anyone to believe that?") is not done on NPR and American political interviews -- for a number of journalistic, cultural and stylistic reasons that are probably good subjects for a future column.

Strangely, it's a technique most associated with the Today programme that broadcast the Andrew Gilligan report that was the sine qua non of the Hutton Inquiry.

The bozos who run the show thinks it makes for incisive journalism that gets at the facts; in fact, it's a ritual as contentless as Changing the Guard over at Buck House. (The futility of the political interview last discussed on January 23.)

For what should be the way forward in broadcast journalism, go to the BBC's File on Four page - with transcripts or streaming of a number of past editions.

FoF are forty minute radio shows directed, usually, at a narrow topic, narrated by the reporter, with shorts interview clips cut in. Top three on the list of the last series' shows are:
9 December - Romania: Child protection

2 December - Public Interest Immunity

25th November - Armed forces cutbacks

The narration is usually clear and logical, states a point to prove at the outset, introduces the evidence, and sums up on the extent to which QED has been achieved.

(The presenters often interview ministers; and these are usually the most unsatisfactory parts of the programme.)

Often, the programme produces a complete slam-dunk against the government of the day. But the Not Invented Here mindset of - to pick an outfit off the top of the head - the producers of the Today programme mean that the painstaking journalism done by the FoF people is not picked up by other shows. There's no momentum [1]. so the story trickles into the sand.

This is what I think of as real journalism: the standard political interview, whether polite or snippy, is empty calories.

If the Hutton Report meant that the BBC would quit the format altogether, then it would have been of some benefit to humanity. They won't, and it isn't.

  1. In fact, it's very much like Joementum.

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