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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Thursday, 13 April 2006, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Make your own news

By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor


    After the passion, colour and, yes, controversy of Inside Latin America week it's all gone a bit quiet round here.

    The good thing about doing Newsnight is that when it all goes quiet you can make your own news
    Everyone it seems has headed off for Easter and this week there hasn't been much news:

    "Don't get me wrong, I love Newsnight, I watch it at least nightly. But tonight's programme contained less news than The Fimbles," complained Tess Read after Wednesday's edition.

    But the good thing about doing Newsnight as opposed, say, to one of the bulletins, is that when it all goes quiet you can make your own news.

    On Tuesday we introduced our new crime correspondent - Michael Howard. On Newsnight we haven't always had the smoothest relations with the former Conservative leader. There was that interview back in 1997 and then that film in 2004.

    Michael Howard

    But we've never been ones to let things fester, so when Mr Howard resigned as leader at the end of last year we invited him to turn reporter for Newsnight.

    The subject we proposed was the fascinating story of how Michael Howard, as Home Secretary in the 1990s, managed - against all the received wisdom - to reduce crime. How did he do it, and what lessons does he have for the new Tory leader who has a rather less strident approach to fighting crime? (Click here for David Cameron's views on crime)

    Okay, we're not going to give him a full-time job, but I thought he was a bit of a natural. And I think there's room on Newsnight for partisan opinion as long we balance it over time and signal to our viewers what's going on.

    His back pages

    We were delighted too to have another of our guest correspondents in town this week.

    Salam Pax

    In truth, the Baghdad Blogger Salam Pax was here on an assignment which fell through, so we had him but no film. Luckily, the third anniversary of the fall of Saddam's statue gave Salam the opportunity to look back at the dozen or so films he's made for Newsnight since he first started reporting for us just after the invasion.

    Put together it made an extraordinary catalogue of what he described as the rollercoaster of the last three years.

    Again, his view was a personal one, and showed how his initial hope following the invasion has hit a low three years on.

    But unlike many of his countrymen who've left, he's determined to remain an Iraqi and has headed back there to continue to report the story for Newsnight.

    Sweeney on salt

    Our third guest of the week was the extraordinary peripatetic talent that is John Sweeney.

    Ian and Angela Gay

    He e-mails me from time to time with stories which in his view I'd be insane to turn down. I usually do, but last year he brought us the story of Christian Blewitt, the three year old who died as a result of salt poisoning. His adoptive parents Ian and Angela Gay had been convicted of poisoning him; John wanted to raise the question of whether Christian might have died through natural causes.

    On Wednesday this week, the Gays won their appeal - though they'll face a retrial - and spoke exclusively to John for Newsnight.

    The Pitch

    So if former Tory leaders, Iraqi bloggers and Sweeney can get an airing on Newsnight, why not you? I refer you to The Pitch, our webmaster Stuart's new wheeze to cover for his own lack of ideas at our morning meetings.

    The pitch graphic
    Drop in your ideas...
    Click here for details of how you can send us your own story idea, pitch it at our meeting by speakerphone and maybe even make it. Judging by the extraordinary number of you now watching the programme either by podcast or on-line around the world you must know something we'd like to.

    On a quiet news day, that is. As I've been writing this we've just heard there's been an arrest in the loans for peerages inquiry. And that RAF doctor who refused to go back to Iraq has just been jailed. Sorry, dear viewer, today you're dropped.


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