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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 15:43 GMT
Interview a statesman, design a set


By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor

  • MONDAY 16 JANUARY
  • THURSDAY 19 JANUARY
  • TUESDAY 17 JANUARY
  • FRIDAY 20 JANUARY
  • WEDNESDAY 18 JANUARY
  • NEWSNIGHT REVIEW
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    World leaders are like buses. You wait ages and then two come along at once.

    Colin Powell
     
    Bill Clinton
     

    On consecutive editions this week we had interviews with Bill Clinton and Colin Powell. These seemed to go down very well with most viewers:

    "What a superb interview," said J Eccles. "Jeremy Paxman and Colin Powell, and indeed Clinton. No one other than BBC2 Newsnight could achieve this. Great questions, the ones we all want answering."

    But one thought we missed a trick with Colin Powell, and didn't so much blame us but the way television interviews are traditionally conducted.

    The question of how much we should involve viewers in asking the questions rather than asking them ourselves is a hot one
    "In programmes like Newsnight we have a supposedly neutral interviewer who is also expected to be a master of all subjects", wrote Jack Thomas.

    "I think we should have openly partisan interviewers who are also expert in their field, maybe even brought in as guests, who can conduct an interview directly with the subject... how about giving it a try?"

    It's a good thought and one we've tried from time to time where a panel of experts or practitioners cross question the person in the frame - usually a Government minister. The big drawback is that the list of politicians willing to subject themselves to this format is about as long as the number of former world leaders we've had on the show this week.

    Exclusive: Tory sex talk

    The question of how much we should involve viewers and others in asking the questions rather than asking them ourselves is a hot one.

    David Cameron

    I don't think Newsnight viewers tune in for phone-ins or phoney interactivity, but on Tuesday we did invite viewers to take part in our debate about the new direction of David Cameron's Conservatives.

    The response was huge, and check out also the blogsite Conservativehome.com who were debating the programme and the policies live as it happened.

    We also had a Newsnight first. The first time we've broadcast a user-generated contribution sent from a mobile phone. In fact we received two.

    But not everyone was impressed.

    "Because you can use a videophone, you do use a videophone," said P Browning, "whether it's worthwhile or not."

    Design by committee

    All this audience interaction made us think, "why stop with the content of the programme?"

    At the moment we're looking at new designs for Newsnight's studio and title sequence as we're due for a studio move later in the year.

    Shots of the Newsnight set

    Obviously we're doing audience research into all this, but since 50,000 Newsnight diehards read this e-mail (as well as a few media competitors) we thought we might as well ask you direct.

    What do you and don't you like about the current set and design? (Our controller thinks the current titles look "too pinstripe".)

    What about the sofa, sitting versus standing (I promise Jeremy will never perch). Are we too formal or not formal enough, does Newsnight suit purple, or would taupe be better?

    I know lots of you will say it's substance not style that counts, but later - when the deed is done - don't say we didn't ask.

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