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Warning: Moron-free zone

Peter Barron | 11:23 UK time, Friday, 8 December 2006

Jasper Gerard in the Observer was scathing. "Leave us some moron-free zones," he wrote of our Oh My Newsnight experiment, which invited viewers to send us their short films. I'm not sure if he thinks his readers are morons too, but it's certainly one way of getting rid of them.

Newsnight logoHe was of course referring to Jeremy Paxman's viral marketing masterstroke of last week (you can watch it here). Until that point business had indeed been a little slow, but following prominent coverage in the Daily Telegraph, among others, contributions have rolled in and we can now present the shortlisted lucky 13.

As far as I can see there's not a funny animal or a moron among them.

There is fascinating stuff about cocaine making in Colombia, refugees returning to Northern Cyprus and how hard it is to find a paperboy in modern Britain.

You can watch them here, vote for your favourite and tell us what you think. The winners will be shown in a special moron-free zone at the end of the programme in January.


  • 1.
  • At 01:43 PM on 08 Dec 2006,
  • tom harlen wrote:

Back on Dec. 30, 2005, the BBC was criticizing the USA for force-feeding the inmates at Guantanamo Bay. Now, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal has told the Dutch authorities to force-feed the the Serb ultrantionalists. Why are you not criticizing this decision?

  • 2.
  • At 04:46 PM on 08 Dec 2006,
  • Philip wrote:

Peter, sorry but I disagree with your comment about 'fascinating stuff' in relation to the 'cocaine' and 'paperboy' films.

Neither of these made any attempt to address the underlying reasons for these problems.

With 'cocaine' they could have asked whether the drop in world commodity prices had or had not made a difference.

And the 'paperboy' film insinuated that kids were 'lazy'. It was the journalism that was lazy, as it didn't attempt to understand whether this was exacerbated by 'stranger danger' making parents less likely to allow their children out.

Some of the films DID explore the underlying reasons for the problems they were discussing, but these were in the minority. I fess up that I was wrong to be quite so cynical about the initiative, but the background here is that Newsnight journalists' jobs are currently 'under review'.

  • 3.
  • At 09:23 AM on 09 Dec 2006,
  • CobblyWorlds wrote:

The problem is that I have watched the destruction of the once scientific Horizon. A destruction that I and many others attribute to scientifically illiterate 'Meejah' studies types. It's a decline I will watch no more.

So when I see things like the video selection, my toes curl as I wonder if this is the start of the rot at Newsnight.

Perhaps Newsnight's late night weekly slot will protect it from the ill-educated vandal clique within the BBC? Maybe scientific illiteracy is generally seen as more acceptable than Political naivety?

Maybe I don't need to worry about the 'Marching Morons' taking control of Newsnight.


Ok I'm lame, the very next page I link to after posting has all the shortlist in glorious youtube. But where's the Jeremy one thats the only one I was interested in.

  • 5.
  • At 09:10 AM on 10 Dec 2006,
  • Steve Godfrey wrote:

I liked the story on North Cyprus. As I work with a fellow forced to flee there in 1974. Gave me a real insight.

I've read Jasper Gerard twice and I still have no idea why the Observer - who I would consider to be a relatively intelligent newspaper - employ him.

Even mentioning him makes his argument seem stronger. He, I would suggest, is the moron.

  • 7.
  • At 12:39 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • peter macnab wrote:

Totally agree with Paxman's statement - some of the stuff appearing on Newsnight recently is pretty juvenile.

  • 8.
  • At 12:39 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew Lydon wrote:

Sorry, these films are cringingly amateur. I cannot vote for any of them.

Please, please don't present this kind of low-grade filler as being worthy of a Newsnight audience.

Where are the professional journalists and documentary makers?

  • 9.
  • At 12:44 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

CobblyWorlds wrote: "The problem is that I have watched the destruction of the once scientific Horizon. A destruction that I and many others attribute to scientifically illiterate 'Meejah' studies types."

Horizon went downhill as it became an American co-production. Apparently Britain could no longer afford to make an annual science series alone. Everything now has to include American interviewees or be made in America. And yet, of course, US television is not known for profundity. If Newsnight becomes an American co-production then I shall know the end is near. A few two-minutes-long viewer-made contributions don't seem a big threat, and some of those currently available for voting are rather worthwhile. As much as so little time allows, anyway.

  • 10.
  • At 12:49 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • harry smith wrote:

the morons have slowly been taking over Newsnight - not just the pathetic editor (Paxman's description). This is not news. Attempts to cover real political issues are usually trumped by desire to be making the news and following shallow trends. We need more intelligent content, not Oxbridge grads making embarrassing attempts to get in touch with real life.

  • 11.
  • At 01:34 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • Anthony Carr wrote:

Having seen the blogs think the idea was an excellent one, all were worthwhile.I expect(or hope)that Jeremy Paxman will admit he was wrong.

  • 12.
  • At 01:56 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • harry smith wrote:

the morons have slowly been taking over Newsnight - not just the pathetic editor (Paxman's description). This is not news. Attempts to cover real political issues are usually trumped by desire to be making the news and following shallow trends. We need more intelligent content, not Oxbridge grads making embarrassing attempts to get in touch with real life.

Who reads the Observer anyway? Yawn.
The shortlisters have all shown their talents - my favourite being the cocaine production one. I haven't seen any other channel giving their viewers the opportunity to showcase their talent. Who knows, the winner may well become a successful documentary maker. Newsnight = pioneers!

  • 14.
  • At 04:40 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • Annie Mc Cartney wrote:

I must admit I look forward to Jeremy's jaundiced jibes about the podcasts and I don't particularly want to get smug little updates from viewers about their boring lives, all this me me me stuff is ruining papers like the Guardian and The Observer. Would like Newsnight to be just the news...which it does exremely well.

  • 15.
  • At 05:40 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • Ernesto Mundo wrote:

I don't believe that "stranger danger" is the main reason for the lack of paperboys. Few youngsters want to start at the bottom and work their way up. Everyone wants to make the big money right now and via the easy way. Kids see greedy dope dealers and untalented rock stars making crazy money. Meanwhile, 30 year old skateboarders in the USA make millions. So a kid figures why ride a bike in the cold morning delivering papers for chump change?

  • 16.
  • At 06:12 PM on 11 Dec 2006,
  • Ian Walker wrote:

It might be better if, rather than use Newsnight for this, perhaps a weekly show dedicated to this, with a number of 3-5 minute "viewer" films; selected by a professional news editor (if nothing else to weed out the "usual suspects" bunch of activists and lobbyists), and maybe even debated by a panel - a sort of Question Time but with questions asked in the form of detailed video.

I'd probably watch that, and might even contribute.

  • 17.
  • At 01:01 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
  • James PM wrote:

I quite enjoyed the gentleman beneath saying that the documentaries are not 'worthy of the Newsnight audience'

Seeming that the documentaries are made by members of the audience this presents something of a paradox...

I haven't seen the documentaries yet but think that the idea is a little bit too 'post-modern' for its own good. I assume that this is the intellectual equivalent of happy slapping.


  • 18.
  • At 01:29 AM on 12 Dec 2006,
  • Pete Lewis wrote:

Jenny (#9) wrote "Horizon went downhill as it became an American co-production."

I don't think this is the case. Horizon has a long history of co-productions with PBS NOVA/WGBH Boston, dating from at least 1981 with The pleasure of finding things out, about Richard Feynman.

As to videos, JP got it about spot on, at least on this showing. Newsnight doesn't need these 'gimmicks'. Perhaps a 5 min slot before or after Newsnight, much like C4 sometimes do after their news programme.

  • 19.
  • At 02:49 PM on 12 Dec 2006,
  • Sam wrote:

I watch and listern to the BBC news and current affairs programmes to be informed and educated by people who know more about the issues than I do.
I do not want the prescious time these programmes have to be filled with the often irrelevant or even prejuiced opinions of the 'public'.

  • 20.
  • At 03:48 PM on 12 Dec 2006,
  • Tim Latham wrote:

I have watched a few of the videos (several didn't seem to download properly) and whilst mildly interesting I really cannot see much relevance to Newsnight.

So you characterise Jeremy Paxman's comments as a "viral marketing masterstroke" - I wonder whether he agrees? Looks to me like another step on the inexorable path of dumbing down. The BBC can dumb down all they want - just don't come running to me for a license fee.

  • 21.
  • At 06:43 PM on 12 Dec 2006,
  • June Gibson wrote:

I agree with Paxo. Pathetic. Is Newsnight indulging in the current catch-penny fad for getting free work out of people? There's a time and place for encouraging fledgling film-makers. Newsnight is not one of them. Next, you'll be asking people to pay to get their work shown on the programme! If you've got some air time spare, have more goes at the Government.

(P.S. Do 6ft.strapping hoodie teens really worry about "stranger danger"?)

A "viral marketing masterstroke".......

As Paxman would say: "Hmmmmm..... yes......" .

Newsnight is one of the last bastions of good journalism in an increasingly dummed down mediaspace. To have "Joe public" send in his videoblogs is like alchemy in reverse - the turning gold into a base metal. There are already hundreds of outlets for self important videobloggers - You tube is a great place for fishing around for current affairs and opinions (, but this is the format of the new media, the web. For Newsnight to try the same format just seems like some sort of desparate act very unbecoming of such a illustrious show.

Why is it that whenever the BBC tries to be "hip" it just comes across like someones dad doing an Ali G impression to impress "da kidz".

It's not big and its not clever.

Eldon Trent (26) Edinburgh

  • 23.
  • At 11:28 PM on 12 Dec 2006,
  • Angry Mike wrote:

I'm 100% behind Jeremy Paxman on this one. We don't need this crap on Newsnight and I enjoyed his disdain at the end of tonight's programme. Newsnight is one of the very few areas left on TV which treats the viewer as an intelligent being. It is lazy journalism to ask for viewers' films - what do you have trained professionals for? Keep Newsnight free from tabloid style dross, and give Jeremy Paxman a medal for his bravery.

  • 24.
  • At 11:04 AM on 13 Dec 2006,
  • Chris wrote:

Well done Jeremy.
People watch Newsnight for proper, intelligent news. If we wanted home videos, we would be watching "Tonight with Trevor MacDonald".
I would be interested to hear Mr Barron's comments about why it is better (apart from the obvious, it is cheaper) to solicit videos from the public rather than to do the work himself.

As a fledgling film maker the idea of the bbc broadcasting user generated content is great. unfortunately newsnight is, for me, the last bastion of serious news and comment and dumbing it down is wrong. why not do this for newsnight review instead of the fools who you have on at the moment.?

  • 26.
  • At 02:40 PM on 13 Dec 2006,
  • Brilad wrote:

It's like this all over the BBC now: user generated content. Almost every time I put a BBC radio station I hear the presenters asking us to 'text in your comments'. I don't want to know what some brain damaged hippie thinks about the news I want a proper journalist to do it.

Perhaps if I do text in you'll knock the cost of the text off my next license fee? No, didn't think so.

Well done Paxman!
I'm only 22, but I'm already appalled at the dumbing down happening in so many television shows. There is a reason that professionals are exactly that. Leave the amateur home movies and musings of the enthusiastic contributors to you tube, where if they are any good, they will quickly be snapped up into the mainstream.

  • 28.
  • At 05:38 PM on 13 Dec 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

Ian Walker suggests "a show dedicated to 3-5 minute viewer films, selected by a professional editor". It used to exist. It was called Video Nation. If I remember rightly, it either came immediately before or after Newsnight. The BBC, in its wisdom, axed it, presumably as there was no future in user generated content...

  • 29.
  • At 10:08 PM on 13 Dec 2006,
  • Lee wrote:

I'm afraid I wouldn't give a threepenny bit for any of these films.Identity card seemed potentially the most interesting,but Im afraid the producers rather lost me in their own cleverness.It seems a great pity that the BBC somehow felt it beneath them to offer some real remuneration for contestants rather than just 15 seconds of fame.If you pay peanuts you get monkeys-perhaps better not to start such a project if Newsnight were going to be so half-hearted?

  • 30.
  • At 12:59 AM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • paula daly wrote:

Mr. Paxman is right - we can go to utube for such tedious bananity. please stop attempting to assert your authority through such petty nonsence. I have often observed that those who lack talent and a capacity to inspire leadership resort to implementing meneal ideas and rules in order to secure power. However, this shallow endeavour is only often suffered for a short period of time by most of us. Mr. Paxman on the other hand, thankfully is not like the rest of us and is willing to shout that the emperor is stark bollock naked befor he parads his inadaquaticies in public - thank God

  • 31.
  • At 09:47 AM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Alan Meade wrote:

Force feeding Guantanemo inmates??
Is there an illicit trade in Fois Guantanemo livers??

  • 32.
  • At 03:45 PM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Madeline wrote:

Sadly as a viewer of Newsnight in Scotland I never get to see the Jeremy Paxman signoff...
I want to see Scottish current affairs but it really irritates me that to get them we are denied the choice of seeing the second half of Newsnight. Every night the junction between the two halves is uncomfortable and jerky and I find myself wondering what is happening in the programme that I have just been ripped out of.
I despair that Newsnight is going down the interactive, viewer generated route. Guess I will just have to put the show on right here in my own barn....

  • 33.
  • At 04:18 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • John McIntyre wrote:

In the same way a Daily Star or Guardian reader would not recognise moronic material, you could not be expected to.

Newsnight was a serious news programme that always delivered quality journalism. We can only hope that you will soon find your true niche with the shopping channel and leave the serious stuff to professionals.

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