16 Jan 2014 at 13:14
I didn’t see Newsnight last night but while I was at Sky News Anna Jones told me Alex Crawford was on the programme discussing the merits of foreign news. “I’ll watch that in the morning,” I thought to myself. I rather I wish I hadn’t. What an appalling piece of broadcasting, although Newsnight will no doubt be delighted that once again they are being talked about.
Newsnight under its new editor Ian Katz has come a long way in restoring its battered reputation. I like the fact they cover more stories with a lighter touch, but last night they disrespected one of the most respected foreign correspondents in British news, Alex Crawford. This week Alex celebrates 25 years at Sky, yet Newsnight invited her to take part in a discussion on the relevance of foreign news without even mentioning this fact. Or if they did, it’s certainly not in the clip above.
I was looking forward to a serious discussion on some research which purports to show that British people aren’t interested in foreign news. That’s not what the viewer got.
In many ways I am a huge fan of Kelvin Mackenzie. He brightens up any radio or TV slot and always provides entertainment. You never quite know what he’s going to come out with. But as a guest on a subject like this? What on earth were the producers thinking of? If all Newsnight wants out of a discussion is a bit of a bunfight, rather than illumination, then we can surely soon expect an appearance by Dappy during a discussion on sexual propriety. Perhaps they should leave such stunts to THIS WEEK!
Alex Crawford was on a live link from South Africa and there was a slight time delay. Anyone who has taken part in a discussion in those circumstances knows how difficult it can be. How Alex Crawford kept her temper, I do not know.
But the worst thing of all was that Jeremy Paxman continually pandered to Kelvin’s out and out trolling of the serious points Alex Crawford was trying to make. “Justify your existence,” he blurted out to her at one point. Alex Crawford doesn’t need to justify her existence to anyone, let alone a studio-bound presenter like Paxman. Her various awards speak eloquently on her behalf. She is a very brave woman who makes foreign stories accessible to the viewer. What more does one want from a foreign correspondent on a 24 hour news channel?
It seems I was not alone in reacting badly to what happened in this piece. Here are a couple of tweets from Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling.
I’d like to think that Newsnight editors might reflect on that discussion and debate whether they got it right. In the meantime, the rest of us can congratulate Alex Crawford on a wonderful career in foreign reporting, and express the hope that she continues doing what she does best for many years to come.