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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Thursday, 13 April 2006, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Short sentences and silly voices

By Stuart Denman
Newsnight website


    Peter Barron is on holiday this week.

    By feeding back on the past week in the Newsnight office I feel I can justifiably enthuse about the handful of us in the grip of an exciting cake baking movement.

    Martha Kearney
    Martha knows which desk is hers
    Though the movement is still in its infancy, it has so far produced some flapjacks, a slab of marble cake, and most recently some butter biscuits that, impressively, Martha Kearney baked the morning after presenting the programme the night before.

    It shouldn't really surprise me that Martha is able to whip up some biscuits after a hard night in the studio. I might tell you, too, that she's the only one in the office who's got totally to grips with the restless and often unhappy world of hotdesking.

    Many a Newsnight journalist has been known to scatter large piles of their own debris across a desk they've taken a shine to in the woeful hope that it will deter others, only to find themselves usurped regardless. Voices get raised, bottom lips wobble, and the homeless journalist is obliged to relocate - thus does the cycle continue.

    But Martha has risen above all this. Instead, in an undeniable gesture of permanence, she has put up some shelves. And as the shelves are indisputably hers, so is the desk adjacent to them - period.

    However, these shelves have been up for a number of weeks now and, aside of a prominent label of ownership, not a book, curio nor even, dare I say, an award, has been set upon them. So, I feel I should invite readers to help her out. If you come across any interesting bits and pieces you believe deserve a nice home, you could do worse than to remember Martha's shelves, hanging dejectedly in a dark corner of the Newsnight office.

    Caught between two knots

    Martha would be very pleased to hear that Woman's Hour is again ahead of Newsnight in the iTunes chart of top podcasts. It was all too prematurely I told her a week ago that Newsnight had already overtaken what Jeremy has referred to as "podcasting's News of the World".

    We've been moving up and down the same ten or so chart positions like a yo-yo caught between two knots
    In truth, we were slow to get our heads around this whole chart thing, and I was obliged to try explaining how it works to Jeremy as he set about writing last week's script. In the end I had to summarise that we hadn't knocked Ricky Gervais from the top spot, and that we've been moving up and down the same ten or so chart positions like a yo-yo caught between two knots. However, we have been in the top five of news podcasts.

    The Guardian's Emily Bell asked this week if a Newsnight podcast is even necessary. I would argue that it is: how else would we tap the rich mine of silly voices that have lain dormant in our staff all this time? Now viewer e-mails are lovingly brought to life in single takes by people who have long since been abandoned by the stage.

    And if you haven't yet been turned into a silly voice for one of our podcasts then do get writing. We get a broad range of comments sent to the site, from people writing to tell us how much they like the show, to those complaining that when we write these columns we should get. Into the habit of using. Much shorter. Sentences.

    Latin twists

    Newsnight's Inside Latin America graphic
    This week, Emily Maitlis takes the podcasting mike to bring you highlights from a great week on Newsnight where Latin America has been the theme, the result of some high impact planning on the part of our editor. If, somehow, you've missed it, our website is host to numerous reports and articles from Gavin and our correspondents reporting from Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. It's been a flavoursome series, punctuated by a Latin take on the Newsnight theme. If you haven't heard it yet, click here.

    Our first programme on Monday attracted an array of mixed feedback, although on the whole I think that Michael Carmichael liked it:

    "Bravo! Bravissimo! Gavin Esler's interviews of Peruvian politicians and public figures were fascinating and revelatory, as well as his difficult but deeply important interview of Otto Reich. Greg Palast's piece on Hugo Chavez was reporting at its finest."

    It was entertaining television but one goes to Newsnight to learn something
    Roger Freeman
    The series hasn't been entirely admired, of course. J Upton of London commented:

    "The extent to which Gavin Esler and Greg Palast gave uncritical audience to the actions of Hugo Chavez, who is systematically removing the levers of democratic control in his country, was cringe-worthy."

    Roger Freeman, also of London, had this to say:

    "The interview with Chavez was wasted as your reporter allowed Chavez to make a fool of him and really nothing of substance was learnt as to what makes Chavez tick. It was entertaining television but one goes to Newsnight to learn something."

    To learn something and be entertained, I would hope.

    Not all of our viewers are in London, though, as many of you take the trouble to remind us. And all this reaching out to other parts of the globe has got us thinking. We know we have viewers all over the world, but from where exactly do you get your Newsnight fix?

    Use the form below to tell us how and where you watch the programme. Where, also, do you listen to our podcasts? At work, on the train, in the bath? We'd love to know.


    I'm at university in Canada studying for a political science degree. The news over here just doesn't come up to the intellectual standard of Newsnight so I often watch it online. I like the new programme break downs that you offer. Thanks!
    Chris Hann, Canada

    Watching Newsnight online (and now listening to Paxo's podcast) is my lifeline to civilisation
    Mark, Melbourne, Australia
    My wife and I enjoy watching Newsnight online from time to time and have enjoyed the recent Newsnight series of pieces on Latin America. It's about time that western media reports focussed on issues wider than economic crises and football.
    Stuart Oliphant, Argentina

    I have just relocated to Australia after five years of living in London - watching Newsnight online (and now listening to Paxo's podcast) is my lifeline to civilisation.
    Mark, Melbourne, Australia

    The podcast is great and I listen to it while working out in the gym or sitting by the pool afterwards
    Ian Wilkinson, Doha, Qatar
    I watch the programme that is available on your website as often as possible. I used to see it every night in London before I moved here. I've always liked the in-depth approach of Newsnight to major political stories. That's harder to find here in the States.
    Irina Somerton, Los Angeles, California, USA

    I watch Newsnight via Satellite every night. If I miss a night, then I go to my computer and watch it the next afternoon.
    Chips Westwood MBE, Sarlat La Caneda, France

    I used to watch Newsnight online when I lived in Japan and later in China. I think the podcast is great and I listen to it while working out in the gym or sitting by the pool afterwards.
    Ian Wilkinson, Doha, Qatar

    I feast on Newsnight's daily e-mails from my laptop way on down south, Sydney town - it's my daily ritual and pleasure, sometimes done whilst breastfeeding!
    Dom, Sydney
    Hello, I live in Amman, Jordan. Newsnight is not broadcast here (why not? I get BBC World & Prime). However I get your daily e-mail (love reading it - even pass on some of the jokes). I don't own an iPod - another item on my "I wish I had list".
    Lesley Alzaka, Amman Jordan

    Great stuff - Newsnight must be in a minority of one: an ambitious, but also self-critical, often even self-mocking, current affairs programme. Definitely worth watching from Down Under, as well as Up Over. Whatever the case, watching it is a much nicer thing to do on the work computer, than, erm, work...
    Peter Tregear, Melbourne, Australia

    What, please, is a 'podcast'?
    Laura Hall, Belize, Central America
    I feast on Newsnight's daily e-mails from my laptop way on down south, Sydney town. It's my daily ritual and pleasure, sometimes done whilst breastfeeding! Multi-tasking at its best.
    Dom, Sydney, Australia

    When I had a "proper job" hotdesking was all the rage (in the 80s/90s) - we would leave sweaty trainers and redundant take outs in the drawers and hope for the best. I read your blurb online and very good it is too. Stick with it and one day you may rule the world! But as I live in the "sticks" or "bush" as we call it here, what, please, is a "podcast"? It puts me in mind of Donald Sutherland in that film when aliens invaded disguised as marrows and took over our bodies, I think they were described as "pods" - scary!
    Laura Hall, Belize, Central America

    I left the UK five years ago to work in Manila, Philippines - great to hear the Newsnight team while driving to work
    Roger Burston, Manila
    Hail Newsnight, from the most isolated city in the world (and a damn good thing that is too). The online version via Real Player fulfils my Newsnight fix. It's a tad small, the quality ain't great and the picture sometimes freezes, but it's the first thing I do each morning.
    Keith, Perth, Australia

    I left the UK five years ago to work in Manila, Philippines. With a few exceptions, most of the foreign TV programmes are US broadcasts. My lifeline back to the UK in terms of UK news are the Newsnight e-mails, occasionally the web broadcasts, but now especially the podcasts. Great to hear the Newsnight team while driving to work. Keep it up!
    Roger Burston, Manila

    I must admit I am selective, I enjoy watching the more international segments of Newsnight. Being so far away from Britain, your domestic stories are not so interesting to me.
    Gerry, Eungella

    I read your e-mails every morning. I have broadband so watch programmes from the previous night when I wish to. Thank you for your service so I can keep in touch with my homeland.
    Jill Jeffs, Orewa, New Zealand

    I watch it in the morning and/or listen to the podcast on the way to and from work. I also like reading the daily e-mails when I have time.
    Robin Gill, Krakow, Poland

    I love the daily e-mails and occasionally watch programme highlights on my PC, now that our broadband connection here is improving.
    Sharmian, Barbados, formerly of Lancashire, UK

    I'm from the island of Trinidad in the West Indies (Caribbean). I don't directly watch Newsnight but watch BBC America on cable. I enjoy reading your daily newsletters and thanks for putting Newsnight online. Keep up the good work!
    Catherine, Trinidad, West Indies

    I very much enjoy Newsnight and have done so for a number of years. I most appreciate the often direct nature of the interviewing by Jeremy Paxman, Gavin Esler and the rest of the team. I am based in the US and would like to echo Anthony Bulloch's comments and request that BBC America provide a slot to Newsnight.
    Richard Tugman, Lynchburg, Virginia, USA

    I get my regular fix of Newsnight most evenings at home in the sleepy village of Denbury, a delightful spot on the edge of Dartmoor. Thank you for an interesting programme.
    Barry Taylor, Denbury

    I don't get to watch Newsnight here in Bermuda, but I do look forward to your e-mails about what will be going on in the show every day. And the jokes for an 11-year old tend to be the only ones I get these days as everyone else is too scared of being fired to send round such entertainment! So thank you.
    Julia Mather, Hamilton, Bermuda

    I only ever listen to the podcasts while skydiving - the news makes more sense up there.
    Phil, The air

    I am a subscriber to your daily Newsnight e-mails and every morning I look forward to reading them, letting me know exactly what I'll be missing as I can't watch the streaming video here at work. A strange thing to read a preview of your programme every day and never actually see it. I particularly enjoy the weekly column from the editor Peter Barron and have watched with interest as his photo has changed - didn't he used to have grey hair? I'm sure the show is great and very informative - the e-mails are.
    William Lee, Portland, Oregon

    I get addicted to your podcast and listen to it in the kitchen. It makes cooking less like "drudgery". I am not much of a chef really; as my husband says, "you should go and live in England - you will enjoy the food over there!"
    Jeannine D'hondt, Ghent Belgium

    You ask where we Newsnight fans are. Well, here's one on the edge of the western world in Berkeley California. Can't get your direct broadcast yet, but daily e-mails and podcasts help. BBC America is a TV channel we get here - but they are dedicated to providing 24-hour streaming of Benny Hill and not much else. (OK, OK, they do add in Monty Python, Footballers' Wives, endless junk in the attic and the occasional mystery, but their programming is pretty deadly and low-budget.) How about pitching them to give you a daily spot?
    Anthony Bulloch, Berkeley, California

    Thank you for having Newsnight online. I am a Canadian who moved to the UK four years ago where I discovered BBC News (in addition to the World Service). I have really enjoyed the quality of BBC journalism (and I especially enjoy Newsnight), especially when compared to the level found in North America, where generally the whole universe turns around the US (and Canada, in Canadian news media). One and a half years ago I moved to Japan where I still enjoy listening to and watching the BBC (and, incidentally, I can get to hear the UK Theme in the middle of the day - although even when I was in the UK I did listen to it regularly).
    Frank, Kumamoto, Japan

    Good day ladies and gents. In response to the above query I mostly just read these e-mail updates about Newsnight. I recently purchased a phone with iTunes so perhaps I will get into the podcasts as well. I did have another comment regarding the news tagline. Perhaps instead of (pardon my paraphrase) "and now the news where you are" you went with something like "and now the news as best we know it". I like this version because it leaves the location issue completely aside and also shows that you are indeed working to provide accurate information from a variety of locales to a variety of locales. Anyway, just a thought. Cheers from a very London like day in Chicago.
    Nathaniel Stubblefield, Chicago, IL, USA

    Is listening to podcasts in the bath actually safe?
    Richard Allan, Dublin

    Gosh! So Newsnight has finally cottoned on that there are viewers outside London and invites people from "all over the globe" to get in touch and tell how we get our Newsnight fix. Sitting down? Astonishingly, research reveals that 82% of the UK population does not live in London and, of those, 93% wouldn't want to. Obviously, not being either Londoners or from "all over the globe" we are of little account. Well almost. Ancient (and probably soon to be removed) custom still gives us the power to elect the government of London which has the arrogance to suppose that the conditions of people beyond the M25 are either of no significance, or sufficiently similar to those of Londoners as not to matter.
    Alastair Ross, Alford

    "We get a broad range of comments sent to the site, from people writing to tell us how much they like the show, to those complaining that when we write these columns we should get. Into the habit of using. Much shorter. Sentences." Might I suggest the Shorter Sentence Brigade unsubscribe, go away and practise their reading skills before re-subscribing to your newsletter. It seems unreasonable to ask you to get dumber so that they might save themselves the effort of getting smarter.
    Kate Cary, Sheffield

    Oh no! Please don't get into the "short sentences" mode. It's irritating in the extreme! Same goes for reported speech in the present tense. People "died", not "dies" - they've done it, so the past tense should be used.
    Brenda, San Jose, California, USA

    I don't watch Newsnight (I get home too late from work) and I don't listen to podcasts (don't own an iPod or computer). I just like reading the daily e-mails!
    Martha, London

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