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The Zhivago Affair - Episode 4

Guest editors, online poker and 'talkdownmanship'

Monday 10 January 2011, 11:04

Ed Reardon Ed Reardon

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Literary editor and memoirist Diana Athill.

Editor's note: part three of Ed Reardon's midwinter diary, which began in the Xmas party season, coincides happily with the first episode of his new series - SB.

I suppose it was around the end of last week that I was forced to bow to the inevitable and accept that, once again, Ed Reardon had not made the short-list to be Guest Editor of the Today programme. This remains a barely comprehensible snub, as I'm one of its most assiduous correspondents, regularly bringing to the producers' attention the use of split infinitives, sloppy English that I would term Estuary but for the certainty that none of its 12-year old exponents would understand the meaning of the word, and duff racing tips.

My hopes of landing a Guest Editorship were briefly raised with the announcement that during the Christmas period the BBC was going for the quality end of the market by hiring the Pope to do Thought for the Day (and the actual Pope to boot - when I first heard the news I assumed it was just another way of referring to that Pope Joan de nos jours, the ubiquitous Ms Atkins).

But this was clearly a temporary aberration on the Governors' part, not so much thinking outside the box as thinking outside a wine-box, or three, after the latest BBC Council meeting. Because sure enough the final selection was the usual trendy crew of actors, installation artists and satirists, most of whom wouldn't even normally be awake when the programme finished, let alone up.

So this is to give a sample of what an Ed Reardon Editorship of Today might include. Regarding the structure of the programme itself, there would be no place for self-satisfied CEOs polluting the Business News with adverts for how well their companies are doing in the High Street (or off a barrow in Brick Lane to judge from most of their accents).

I have no objection in principle to the concept of product placement - keen-eared listeners may recall the reference to Blakeys Boot Protectors in my radio play about the digging of the Blisworth Tunnel, the fruits of which I'm still enjoying ten years later - as long as it satisfies the inner life of man and not just the cravings of Mammon. In which former category I would include the imminent publication of Ed Reardon's Week Series 4 as an Audiobook, mentioning it regularly on the half-hour, after the Today sports bulletins. The knock-on effect from all the Ashes euphoria could only prove beneficial to sales.

As with Guest Editor Sam Taylor-Wood's item on home birthing or Diana Athill on infidelity, various Ed Reardon hobby-horses would also be indulged, such as replacing the daunting stairs up to Berkhamsted station platform with an escalator - or better still an airport-style moving pedestrian walkway, as escalators can be hazardous to those whose trouser-bottoms and shoelaces are not in the first flush of youth.

For one of my Outside Broadcasts I would try and get to the bottom of where so-called Customer Services departments are taught their communication skills. This morning I happened to forget the password which gains me entry to an online poker club; a new one was issued via email, together with the infuriating message 'Hey don't worry dude - we all do it!' This is in the same vein as otherwise serious guarantees or contracts of service which are invariably prefaced 'The Small Printy Stuff' or 'Yawn! Sorry, gotta read it though!'

It would be interesting to find out if there exists a Stephen Potter-type School of TalkDownmanship where this sort of thing originates - quite possibly in Yeovil, though I suspect I wouldn't have to venture far beyond wherever it is Richard Branson hangs his baseball hat these days.

I would also visit the offices of a national newspaper, probably The Guardian as it's only a short walk from Euston, and stand over one of its television 'critics' as they went about their business. This would satisfy a long-held belief that TV reviewing is palmed off on the nearest person not doing anything else that day, but as a proper writer I'd also help them eradicate some of the grisly solecisms to which the job falls prey, such as 'Remember you read it here first', 'Despite or possibly because of ' and - a particular bugbear this - 'Actually I made that bit up', the last refuge of the facetious hack.

And having Ed Reardon breathing down their necks might stamp out the self-regarding habit of TV reviewers mentioning their girl- or boyfriends and what they think about the programme in question, as if anybody cared. Mawkish references to critics' other halves have no place in decent journalism: why, even my cat Elgar paws the G2 section in knowledgeable despair when I put it on the floor under his bowl, bless him.

There - that's just off the top of my head and it isn't even ten o'clock yet.

Ed Reardon is an author, pipe smoker, consummate fare-dodger and master of the abusive e-mail

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    Comment number 1.

    The “Today” programme has recently spent much time commenting on the happenings in the Soap programmes “The Archers” and “Eastenders”.
    Why was so much precious broadcast time spent on this sort of trivia? These things are enjoyable to those who watch and listen to them, but surely we don’t need a comment from the premier BBC news programme of assure their legitimacy?
    The “Today” programme will soon become live Radio 5 on Sunday morning, when all they talk about is “Strictly”, “X Factor” and maybe a Football match, and so on. We don’t need journalists for this sort of cheap chatter. A group of people from the street can easily carry on such conversations for FREE. The Today programme is already slipping behind the Radio Drive output of Mr Allen and Ms Anand, so you would be better to concentrate of getting better good stories rather than the easy way out of talking about ANOTHER programme (which I don’t think needs your help anyway).

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    Comment number 2.

    The change that worries me is to PM, Radio 4, daily 5pm.

    It used to be the flagship of the BBC's determination to keep UK politics honest.
    Politicians, in personal, political and financial matters were regularly brought to account.

    Now, with the Coalition in power that all seems to have stopped. Which is worrying for UK politics and the programme.
    For 'That is in the nature of coalition politics; has becoe the exxcuse that government suporters and Ministers use whenever the Caoliton is accused of dishonesty

    This claim of itself needs forensic examination for at face value it can be used to cover up any piece of real politique the gocernmment tries on.

    I hate to say this but either the 'It's in the nature of coalition politics' claim has proved too clever for the PM team and its presenter or the team is too sympathetic to the Coalition or political pressure on them has proved too much.

    For assuredly political dishonesty in government has by no means ended with the advent of the Coalition.

    I am of course assuming that Ed Reardon (may his sublime humour be saved from political in-'correctness') has not taken over the programme

 

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