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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Friday, 26 May 2006, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Is blogging the new black?

By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor


    Blogging: useful or sad?

    Blogging - new age journalism, or just lonely people typing?
    There's plenty of debate these days about the value of blogs. The BBC's head of interactive cheerfully accepts that 99% of all blogs, including some of the corporation's, are "complete crap".

    Our own blogger, Paul Mason (Idle Scrawl), thinks that any TV or radio journalist who doesn't want some form of blog or web presence is mad.

    Our own presenter Jeremy Paxman is at the sceptical end of the spectrum. Show me the evidence that numbers comparable to those who watch TV are reading blogs, runs his argument, and I'll start blogging. (Though it's not the case, as reported somewhere this week, that Jeremy refuses to podcast.)

    Of course the numbers reading individual blogs will not reach the million or so who watch Newsnight every night any time soon, but it's the two-way nature of them that makes them compulsive and addictive. I don't know any of my contemporaries who would describe themselves as problem TV viewers, but I know plenty who can't leave Technorati alone.

    This column isn't really a blog proper - though it will appear on a new BBC blog, coming soon - but the feedback it provokes is useful. At least I think it is

    Mild surprise of the new

    I'm pretty sure - for example - that our new set has gone down well. Normally when anything on TV changes loads of people write in to complain about the shock of the new. There has been just a handful of complaints and actually more people bothered to write in to say how much they like the new look, which is pretty unusual.

    A ridiculous distracting purple background, and bland dull unoriginal music. And this is progress?
    Curly, Crewe
    Over recent months we've used this column to check what would provoke your ire - the message came back loudly: keep it dark, no Paxman perching or prancing, don't junk the theme tune. Imagine what might have happened if we hadn't asked. As far as I can see just one viewer - Curly - wrote to complain that we'd been too timid.

    You are a grumpy lot

    Then there's the cone, which has proved controversial (Editor's column 19 May). It was the grumpy old men category that seemed to cause all the problems.

    No-one complained about being called grumpy, it was "old" and "men" which rankled. Legions of grumpy women - young, old and middle-aged - contacted us to protest that they too throw their slippers at the TV. But the email which made me think most was this one from Ken Cameron.

    He says, "Please don't analyse us too much, we all want to be individuals who like our Newsnight a bit different from everything else." Which, I agree, is the point of Newsnight.

    Oaten: what would you have done?

    Mark Oaten
    Mark Oaten gets some therapy in his Newsnight film
    Most grumpiness this week was in response to our film with Mark Oaten. Many viewers thought he was an inappropriate choice of guest and that it was wrong to lead on it.

    But I'd ask you to put yourself in our position. Would you really have declined to bid for an interview with Mark Oaten following his fall from grace? And if he came back to you and said I won't do an interview but how about a film, would you have said - no, it's Paxo or nothing?

    In fact, up until the afternoon of the day of broadcast we hoped that Mr Oaten would be prepared to answer Jeremy's questions off the back of the film, but sadly that didn't come to pass.

    Looking back at it now, what would I have done differently? I would still have done it, and would still have led with it, but I think now that we should have gone to Martha Kearney off the back and asked: "What do you make of that then?" and then we could have explained to open-mouthed viewers the circumstances under which the film was made.

    But you may take a different view.

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