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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Newsnight podcast - 41 with a bullet

By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor


    First of all I'd better correct a couple of uncharacteristic inaccuracies in Jeremy's second podcast, which should land in your pod at any moment.

    A cat
    Peter doesn't have a cat, but if he did it might look something like this
    I don't own a cat called Flossy. Pets are banned in our household, or were until my daughter negotiated me down from a puppy to two Russian dwarf hamsters (Chewy and Scamp, since you ask).

    But more importantly, the figure Jeremy gave for our podcast chart position is woefully out of date.

    As we speak, the Newsnight podcast sits at 41 in the iTunes hit parade of subscriptions, ahead not only of Woman's Hour as Jeremy states, but also of the Today Programme and Channel 4 News.

    An odd thing about journalism is how and why we try to spoil our competitors' work
    But the margins of the top 40 is not where we want to be. So if you're not yet into podcasting click here to sign up for a free download of the best bits of Newsnight every week.

    This week we offer, amongst other things, Michael Crick in pursuit of David Cameron on party loans, an interview with London Mayor Ken Livingstone, and an extract from our latest report from Ethical Man.

    The roof didn't fall in

    US veteran

    I'm always amazed at how inexact a science journalism is. Why do some scandals involving ministers blow over when others force resignation? Why do some murders seize the nation while others go unreported? Why do some Newsnight reports provoke storms of controversy and others barely cause a ripple? It's all down to a completely unpredictable mixture of chance, timing and extraneous events.

    I must admit I thought the roof might fall in when we broadcast Wednesday's film about US Iraq veterans on a peace march through America's deep south. It included powerful accounts of disillusioned former soldiers speaking of illegal killings and abuse in Iraq and their guilt towards the Iraqi people. The film, produced by the independent film-makers Inigo Gilmore and Teresa Smith, was undoubtedly unusual and provocative, but I felt there's a place on Newsnight for that kind of documentary.

    I expected torrents of e-mails begging to differ, but in fact most who wrote appreciated the film.

    Angela Parry said: "I'm grateful to the BBC for letting us see this. These youngsters are the epitome of everything that's good about their country, so no-one should tell them they are 'un-American'!"

    Stuart Hepburn thought it was "one of the best pieces I have ever seen on British television. I am writing this through tears of emotion at the horror of it all".

    But Eric Dickens' reaction shows how deeply the issue of Iraq divides our audience:

    "You could see the genuine traumas of some of those filmed, but the whole exercise was crude propaganda in TV terms."


    Newsnight gets its man

    Newsnight's Inside Latin America graphic
    Newsnight's series from Latin America begins on Monday
    Another odd thing about journalism is how and why we try to spoil our competitors' work. If the Sun leads on a story the Mirror pretends that story doesn't exist and vice versa. And at our end of the market we do it too.

    When Channel 4 News ran an excellent season of programmes live from Iran recently Newsnight ran an Iran special live from Shepherd's Bush on night one to try to pre-empt them.

    And when they learned we were planning a season of programmes from Latin America they raced off to Venezuela to try to beat us to a much-coveted interview with the maverick President Chavez. So persistent were their efforts that they got themselves arrested, and apparently annoyed El Presidente so much that he decided to speak out - to Newsnight.

    You can see his interview and the rest of our season on Latin American politics, culture and art on Newsnight, all next week.


    This is why I get my news from BBC. I live in the Southern US, and none of our "fair and balanced" news outlets reported on this march.
    Mr David Patterson, Nashville, TN, USA

    It gave me some faith back. The first real report since Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. I have total respect for the guy that admitted driving over the child. Soul destroying stuff!
    Crass DJ, Brighton

    Glad to see the media is finally listening to the experiences of real American soldiers. All too often all we hear is political rhetoric.
    Alia Arif, Manchester

    The item on the Iraq veterans showed those at the lower end of the moral spectrum within the military. These people, crying and wailing and giving graphic accounts of brutality, were sickening to watch. IF they were telling the truth about innocent farmers being "shot up" and spades planted on the dead, then why didn't they report the miscreants to the military police authorities, their political representatives, the press? No, I am sorry, I simply do not believe them. They joined the military willingly, many of them to benefit from the free education offered to military veterans. Did they think they would not be required to enter a war situation and earn the pay and benefits? They are a disgrace to their country and the many hundreds of thousands brave and honourable American service personnel who have served and continue to serve the cause of freedom - as people in this country and the continent of Europe should acknowledge.
    John McIntyre, Runcorn

    I fully support the BBC's documentary about the disillusioned US soldiers. I wish I could have seen it. My computer won't run it. I think the soldiers' disillusionment is identical to that of the Vietnam vets of the 60s and 70s. It's beyond tragic that we should visit this torment on another generation of young men and women; it's criminal. All to settle a personal grudge with Saddam Hussein.
    Anne, New Britain CT USA

    I've just started subscribing to your podcast - I can "do the housework" and still listen to Jeremy's dulcet tones ripping another politician to pieces. Good system, keep it up. Here is a suggestion for a subject on a quiet night: "Do the British public really want digital TV with all of its attendant costs AND reception restrictions?"
    Roy South, Southampton

    Firstly, I'm very impressed that anyone is brave enough to tackle a hamster as a pet, but to have two - Wow! - that deserves a gold medal. Secondly, as a fan of Newsnight, I appreciated the chance to discover again the core of the programme, and the issues here are very poignant and thought-provoking. I sympathise with the plight of Iraq and those who were involved there. The conflict in Iraq was a necessary evil, and those who served there deserve a better deal from their country and citizens. PS - Peter, get a dog, a large one, and introduce it to Jeremy during the programme, or get a second one for him.
    Jackie Domingo, Ammanford, Dyfed

    No more hamsters please - you've got this viewer wrong.
    Penny Evans, Raglan

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