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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
The smooth and the rough

By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor


    This week a first. Messages of praise started dropping into my inbox. Quite a lot of them.

    "I am just writing to say how much I admire the recent Newsnight coverage..." "I was impressed with the honest and courageous reporting..." "Congratulations..." etc.

    We've never concealed the fact that Ethical Man contains recycled material, but isn't every good idea a question of good timing?
    Was this some kind of joke? Then it clicked what was going on. I've written before about Medialens, the group whose self-professed aim is to "correct the distorted vision of the corporate media".

    They publish internet alerts about issues - very often the Iraq war - which they think the mainstream media is getting wrong, and encourage their subscribers to write to editors like me - which they do, copiously but usually politely.

    Well, this week they issued an alert which applauded the recent film Newsnight made about US Iraq Veterans Against the War and, I think to their credit, lots of readers wrote to add their appreciation.

    In this business you've got to take the smooth with the rough.

    Ethical politicians?

    When we launched our Ethical Man series at the beginning of this year, one or two ethical journalists raised their eyebrows. Had we nicked their idea?

    Justin Rowlatt on his scooter
    Justin Rowlatt demonstrates his new set of wheels
    Well, we've never concealed the fact that Ethical Man contains recycled material, but isn't every good idea a question of good timing?

    Our Ethical Man, Justin Rowlatt, was I think the first to try this experiment on TV - though others have followed - but when the politicians start doing it too you really know you're onto something.

    David Cameron's fitting a personal wind turbine and this week launched his local election slogan "Vote Blue to Go Green"; Ming Campbell's decided to sell his beloved Jag (Justin's next film is about the sale of his beloved Saab); and now Gordon Brown, prompted perhaps by Mr Cameron's taunt about being a fossil fuel chancellor, has made a major speech about renewable energy.

    They'll be talking eco-balls next.

    Blog off

    I had a meeting this week with the editor of a forthcoming new feature on the BBC's News website, the Editor's Blog.

    The idea is that the editors of the various programmes on radio and TV will be able to contribute at any time of the day or night to a blog dealing with viewer feedback, issues in the news and current controversies.

    It hasn't launched yet so his hypothetical question was: what would you have said if I'd come to you today for a line on Jeremy Paxman's salary?

    Well, in the spirit of the new venture I'm sure I'd have said something, but it might have been just two words.

    A look at the back pages

    On Tuesday another Newsnight first - a review of the newspaper sports pages.

    Garth Crooks reads the back pages on Newsnight
    Garth Crooks closes the programme with a look at the back pages
    Years ago a sports mad friend of mine asked me why we never say, "just time for a quick look at the back pages", so when the BBC sports pundit Garth Crooks came on to report on the race to be the next England football manager we asked him to stay on for the papers.

    I don't want another weather incident here, so no voting, but the back pages during the World Cup - it's a thought isn't it?


    Please help me to maintain my sanity during this pressing time by not covering the sports section of the papers
    Edward Mannion
    It is disappointing to see such snobbishness amongst some viewers of Newsnight in relation to coverage of football. Nobody is expecting Paxman to give us a rundown of the Opta stats for the week or to offer his analysis of Arsenal's patchy away form, but when there is a story of national concern to many (like that of the England manager) it would be an anomalous oversight to pay it no heed. Five minutes of the programme dedicated to football every few months or so doesn't imply that it is as important as high-minded politics, heaven forbid, but it is a reflection of the news. Surely this is the show's purpose?
    Michael Anderson, Newton Aycliffe

    Yes, you should do back pages during the World Cup because everyone except a few grumbling killjoys is interested in football for four weeks every four years
    I fear Newsnight will be my only refuge during the forthcoming football World Cup. Please help me to maintain my sanity during this pressing time by not covering the sports section of the papers. I'd be shocked if supporters did not have ample opportunity to catch up with the latest events.
    Edward Mannion, Farington, Lancashire

    Oh, no, not more sport! I wholeheartedly agree, there is far too much of it! I suspect that you'll probably cave in though, along with all the rest, when it draws ever closer to that 2012...
    Marc Kirkwood, Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne

    I love Newsnight's lack of intellectual snobbery and readiness to have a bit of fun. So yes, you should do back pages during the World Cup because everyone except a few grumbling killjoys is interested in football for four weeks every four years. Just do it in your own inimitable style.
    Jane, London

    Please, please no coverage of the World Cup - where else can us football haters hide?
    Alia Arif
    There's nothing wrong with including sport in Newsnight. It matters to a lot of people and just because I'm a Newsnight viewer, it doesn't mean I'm not interested in sport. There was nothing wrong with the weather either as a matter of fact...
    Scott Newton, Redditch

    Was amazed by the film about the Iraq veterans. I think you are being too modest, I am sure people were genuinely touched by it. Please, please no coverage of the World Cup. Where else can us football haters hide?
    Alia Arif, Manchester

    NO,NO,NO,NO. Back page sport reports on Newsnight, never. We will be bombarded during the football World Cup ad nauseum. At least until we go out in the first round. Keep Newsnight as an oasis of calm.
    Tony Creffield, Northampton

    I would be interested to hear Jeremy's opinion on the idea of a sports round-up.
    John Quick, Barnstaple

    The back pages are there for a reason, most of us aren't interested. Just leave them to the papers and give us real news.
    Clive Coleman, Whitehaven

    Anne, Devauden, Monmouthshire

    "It's a thought isn't it?" Yes, but not a pleasant one.
    Laurence Hodge, Guildford

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