Sunday, April 30, 2017

Shifting Sands

Sarah Sands, incoming editor of Today, is chronicling her transition from print to radio, in print. Here are some searing apercus from her latest diary in the New Statesman....

"I am asked what the difference is between print and radio. The Today programme seems to me to be the nearest thing to a newspaper: high impact but eclectic. But there are clearly different skills, which will take time to learn.

"One example is the broadcast convention of the production team talking into the earpiece of a presenter. On a newspaper, the editor will brief an interviewer and occasionally do a joint interview if it’s a swanky subject. But you would not crash into a room in which an interview was taking place, as if you were the detective inspector from Line of Duty. And in the interests of balance, shouldn’t interviewees be allowed earpieces, too ?

"The whole process reminds me what a tightrope live interviewing is and how much pressure is on the presenters. Don’t they do a grand job ?"

And there's more.

"The BBC has been described as something between church and Post Office, and it takes time to fathom its structure and ethos. I find it helpful to remember that Today comes under the news department but sits within BBC Radio 4. Its apparently illogical positioning is crucial to its character. It is news, but with a hinterland. It is woven into people’s lives and the relationship is conversational rather than just informational. This relationship can be dangerous.

"But I took my life in my hands to have lunch with Charles Moore, my old friend and boss. I was deputy editor at the Daily Telegraph when he was editor, and his ability to scent bias at the BBC has not worn off in the intervening years.

"I told him triumphantly that I’d thought of a way round this: I intended to introduce more items about nature and the countryside, which are reconciling rather than divisive. Birds, for instance. Charles’s eyes narrowed. What about the anti-shooting lobby? Fish, then !  Ah, that can be an attack on land ownership. Trees aren’t much easier: the arguments about bio-security and borders make the immigration debate seem civil. Remember the cause that did for the talented former editor of Today Rod Liddle ? It was the Countryside Alliance, championed, of course, by Charles Moore. There’s no safe hiding place for us at Today."

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