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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 14:30 GMT
Difficult decisions and charm offensives


By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor

  • MONDAY 28 NOVEMBER
  • THURSDAY 1 DECEMBER
  • TUESDAY 29 NOVEMBER
  • FRIDAY 2 DECEMBER
  • WEDNESDAY 30 NOVEMBER
  • NEWSNIGHT REVIEW
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    Say what you like about Judith Miller - and people have said plenty - but she clearly has extraordinary powers as a journalist.

    Judith Miller

    She's been called a woman of mass destruction, a stenographer and handmaiden to the Republican Right after a series of stories which helped make the case for war in Iraq turned out to be wrong.

    But you have to have something to get the story in the first place, even the wrong story.

    We got a glimpse this week when we secured the first interview with Judith Miller outside the United States.

    Our guest producer had spent weeks on the phone trying to persuade her to talk to us. When the interview finally happened, in Italy, he couldn't be there. So she sent him a bottle of wine with a message on the label - "To Neil, wish you were here with us, Judy Miller".

    It's charm like that that gets scoops.

  • MILLER 'SORRY' FOR WMD INACCURACIES

    Matter of taste

    Most editorial decisions are pretty mundane, unless you're working with John Sweeney.

    Salt cellar

    John was on Newsnight this week with his investigation into the case of Christian Blewitt, the three year old who died as a result of salt poisoning.

    His adoptive parents Ian and Angela Gay were convicted earlier this year of poisoning him.

    For his film questioning their conviction, John wanted to try to swallow four and a half teaspoonfuls of salt dissolved in a glass of water, and film the results.

    The BBC's health and safety officer had advised against on the not-unreasonable grounds that it could kill him. My decision was whether or not to allow him.

    Of course it was a stunt, but there was a serious point. That much salt taken at once could kill you but, as the film showed, if you try to swallow it your body makes you throw up violently.

    Not a pretty sight, but a powerful point.

    Best, still best

    There are certain immutable rules of journalism, one of which is never underestimate the public's appetite for stories about George Best.

    We had lots of complaints about the fact that we raised the issue of his drinking
    Being a Belfast son of the 60s I, of course, grew up loving George Best. I support Spurs, not because they're the best team, but because Tommy Docherty sacked George in 1972 and I walked out on Man United forever that day, too.

    I named my son George, but in the last couple of years even I'd given up on him (Best that is). However, when he died it very quickly became apparent that many millions of Britons hadn't.

    We had lots of complaints about the fact that we raised the issue of his drinking, his controversial liver transplant and the government's new drinking laws with George's doctor, Professor Roger Williams.

    That amazed me, and I can't believe George would have complained.

    The mouse returns

    As I write, Jeremy Paxman reports that he's just had a sighting of the Newsnight mouse, which we thought had been eradicated.

    Stephanie Flanders, whose drawers it once inhabited, is in the office working late, too - eek.

    The good news is that, despite my pleas, Jeremy only ever writes for the website when the mouse is in residence.

    Watch this space.



    WATCH THIS WEEK'S OTHER PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS

  • Can the UK achieve its targets on climate change?
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  • SEE ALSO:
    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



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