BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 12:05 GMT
Geeks, Gak and Newsnight

By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor


    On Newsnight we try to give our viewers what we think they'll want, but is it possible to give everyone what they want all the time?

    We think we know the typical Newsnight viewer pretty well - audience research shows us lots of things, that the average viewer is male, 50-something, upmarket, intelligent and independent-minded - so obviously we try to tailor our programmes accordingly without alienating everyone else.

    Excellent! I most enjoyed tonight's first segment of Geek Week
    Rob McDougall, London
    Now I don't know if Rob McDougall of London fits that profile, but in dreaming up Geek Week this week we were consciously playing to an audience we know we have.

    I felt that the 'Geek Week' report on the programme was lightweight and disappointing
    But it's a risky business. We have a lot of viewers who I suppose could be described as being at the geekier end of life. They know their technology backwards and while they like to see it on TV, they want it on their terms.

    Not entirely Newsnight

    Then there are viewers like this Newsnight diehard and regular correspondent, whose latest email was ominously entitled: Not entirely happy...

    Newsnight's Geek Week graphic

    "Stephen Smith is sent out on a ragbag of assignments, covering all sorts of trendy phenomena, under the blanket term of 'culture'," he says. "We've all had computers for years; we don't need to see the unimpressive innovators in the flesh scoffing their meals."

    Yes, we have all had computers for years, but Sir Clive Sinclair, who appears in our final Geek Week offering on Friday 6th reckons their development is the most significant in history, topping even the discovery of fire.

    Worth checking up on from time to time I reckon.

    Enough Pete Doherty already

    A similar theme followed our end of year interview in December with Pete Doherty, the drug addicted singer and one-time consort of Kate Moss.

    Pete Doherty

    "What was the point of the second Pete Doherty interview?" asked Ian Hart of Oxford. "I have no interest in him, his music or his life."

    Is Pete Doherty of interest and should he be on Newsnight?

    He's undoubtedly of interest to many - I'd say he consumed more tabloid column inches than anyone other than possibly Kate Moss last year, and you only need to Google the words Pete Doherty and Newsnight to see that our interview was picked up everywhere.

    Indeed the broadband version was the second most requested bit of video on the entire BBC website on Christmas Eve.

    Yes, I sense you saying, but should Newsnight be doing him?

    The reason we interviewed Pete Doherty a year ago was because his then band the Libertines had provided one of the cultural highlights of the year, he'd just been named the NME Cool Icon of 2004, and yes, he had a dreadful drug problem.

    Then, he told Kirsty, he was determined and would beat the drugs.

    A year on - and given the huge notoriety he'd attracted in the course of the year - we thought it was right to talk to him again.

    That was in the context of a series of interviews featuring others who'd made news in 2005, including the anti-war campaigner Cindy Sheehan, the 7/7 survivor John Tulloch and the McCartney sisters, whose brother was murdered by members of the IRA.

    Dumbing down, or wising up?

    The point of all this is that of course there are meat and drink items which Newsnight will always do - like Ariel Sharon's stroke or Charles Kennedy's confession.

    The avatar version of Jeremy Paxman dances in the Newsnight studio
    Does Paxman dance to the tune of Babyshambles?
    There are stories we'll (probably) never do - like Who's in the Big Brother house? or Spurs boss fury at horror tackle - and there are plenty in between which are debatable, and we're happy to debate them.

    If someone scouring the internet for the latest on Pete 'n' Kate stumbles upon Newsnight and finds they also rather enjoy the political review of the year which appeared in the same programme, or a gamer in a racoon outfit tunes in to see our business correspondent Paul Mason (I know his avatar's name but he won't let me tell you) entering his world, is that a good or a bad thing?

    Alternatively, there may already be a 50-something news junkie out there dancing around virtually to the strains of the Babyshambles.

    We'd love to hear from you.

    Newsnight end of year quiz
    23 Dec 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Newsnight on trial
    16 Dec 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Allies on trial
    09 Dec 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Difficult decisions and charm offensives
    02 Dec 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Broadband - like TV only better
    25 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home
    What is the point of Jeremy Paxman?
    17 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Could you do better?
    11 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Smears, the Sun and squirrels
    04 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home

    Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific