Talk about Newsnight

Ethical Man - Justin Rowlatt

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  • Justin Rowlatt -
  • 17 Aug 06, 06:22 PM

blogcomment203.jpgI am still very new to the world of blogging but already I am beginning to understand why so many people – including a number of my colleagues here at Newsnight – have become obsessed by it.

Journalists just love to talk about what people think about what they do. But our audience hasn’t always entered into the discussion. The audience figures show that about a million people watch Newsnight each night yet sometimes we get no virtually feedback whatsoever.

I say “virtually no feedback” because we do get at least two calls every night. These are made regardless of who is presenting the programme. One says that Jeremy is rude to guests. The other says that Newsnight is not worth watching without Jeremy presenting.

That’s why the blogosphere is so appealing. It is such an easy way for people to comment on what we do. And thousands of people (yes – like you!) have been logging on to our new blog site and have been commenting on things like this (as, indeed, I hope you will).

But this morning I discovered there are other ways for our audience to respond to our work.

carjustin203.jpgAs regular visitors to the Ethical Man website will know, when I gave up my car in mid April my producer, Sara, told me she had put it in “storage” in a safe car park. In June I discovered that the car had actually just been parked in the BBC car park and left. I haven’t checked the car since then, reckoning that the BBC car park is probably as safe as any other one.

So I was worried when I came into work today to be told by our programme assistant, Leanne, that my car had been the subject on an attack. Naturally I was anxious to find out what happened. This is what we found.

When I last visited the car I wrote “Ethical Man woz here” in the dust on the bonnet. I can only guess these two viewers - check the hand writing - are not happy with my work.

car203p.jpgThe even less pleasant alternative is that they are colleagues who are using my car as a way of sending a message to me personally.

I suppose I should be thankful that at least the car is still there.

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Hi Justin.
The way second hand prices are dropping, you'd probaly have been wiser to sell it, bank the cash, and rebuy a year later!

Always a bit rubbish when you find out someone you work with has a nasty streak .... but it was probably a contractor.

  • 2.
  • At 11:26 PM on 17 Aug 2006,
  • duncan mckay wrote:

the problem is the site design. Unless your a geek like me you don't know how to post a comment like this one! The catch would be less access to you so I am probably shooting myself in the foot by being honest with you!

  • 3.
  • At 07:51 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Dan Rickard wrote:

They're both right... The callers to Newsnight, not the people who wrote in the dust on your car!!

Jeremy Paxman IS rude to the guests - but anyone who goes on or watches Newsnight not expecting this is missing the point. The man is a legend of news reporting and I'm sure most of us are right behind him when all he's trying to do is get a straight answer.

As for your car selling it is a better idea than letting it rot. Aside from the battery draining you shouldn't leave a vehicle stationary with fluids in it (oil, coolant, fuel) - you should have the car drained while it's stored. Or at least put some additives in the fuel tank to stop the petrol and it's additives from decaying over time.
And at the very least get a cover for it to keep it clean.
Car's should be 'excercised' at least once a fortnight otherwise when you come back to it next year you'll have lots of little problems and it will never feel the same.

Some geek, double posting! :-)

  • 4.
  • At 11:19 AM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • Mandy wrote:

I hope you're not under the impression that blog comments provide a representative sample of viewer opinion. Selection bias aside, the internet is full of flamers, trolls, sock-puppets and kooks (this posting fits at least two of those categories) - caveat bloggor.

That said, a number of contributors have pointed out that you're missing one of the most important features of blogging - author feedback within the comments. This provokes debate, and will encourage well-informed readers to contribute. Perhaps I'm missing the point, but current comments resemble more of a babble than a debate.

Though the BBC's arrived late to the party, Newsnight appears to be realising the potential of this medium. You should also recognise that blogging is an acquired skill, different in many ways from standard TV journalism. If you haven't done so already, hire some experienced bloggers - at the very least, get them to review your website and to assist new contributors.

I think you're on the cusp of a revolution in how mainstream news is gathered and presented. However, I don't see much evidence of a strategy behind your foray into the blogosphere.

Develop a strategy. Be ambitious. Viva la revolucion.

In ten years everyone will have a blog, or whatever the equivalent is then.

As many are beginning to appreciate, the age of 'Push' broadcasting is fading fast. We are no longer passive consumers, hypnotised by the miracle of moving pictures on a screen. We no longer look behind the Tv to see who's there.

We want to produce as well as consume.
Hence the latest digital success story. Geriatric1927. A seventy something online phenomenon. In his first week on air, his account at UTube has generated hundreds of thousands of hits in its first week. Enough, if on a standalone blog to generate thousands of pounds income a week.

But more importantly, he represents the point where the technology of broadcasting becomes available to practically everyone. The implications are obvious.

Not only are people of his generation offered an entirely new role in society, but anyone and any organisation can distribute and promote itself and its productions anywhere in the world.

The implications both for society and mainstream broadcasters are stupendous. It is at least as significant ass the transition form Steam travel rto the internal combustion engine or ”The fastest generation of technological change since fire.” as Alan McCulloch of Saatchi & Saatchi once described the explosion in digital communications. Richard Eyre called it a 'communicopia'. And now it's here.

So why doesn't Geriatric 1927 have his account with the BBC, where it surely belongs?

Message recieved Mandy. So here's a little author intervention...

I take your point about selection bias though I have no idea what those other things are.

I realise that the responses we get may not be representative of views of the audience as a whole but they do give an insight into what some of our audience think.

Not only that, since I started my ethical "diary" we have had loads of great ideas from the emails and letters we've recieved from viewers. A number of the interviewees featured in the Ethical Man reports are people who wrote in to the Ethical Man website.

So we do listen and we know you are not all a bunch of sock tossers, flaneurs and fruits.

  • 7.
  • At 06:02 PM on 18 Aug 2006,
  • SOCRATES BIR wrote:


  • 8.
  • At 12:13 AM on 19 Aug 2006,
  • David wrote:


What does the other word say, can't quite make it out on the picture?

  • 9.
  • At 01:03 PM on 19 Aug 2006,
  • Spartacus wrote:


A blue comment - Sweet Manna from Heaven!

I don't think Mandy was accusing you of not listening, just not participating, though it looks like you've proved her wrong.

By the way, those odd terms she used are derogatory titles for characters commonly found prowling on-line discussion groups:

Trolls - wind-up merchants who post remarks with the deliberate intention of provoking a response, particularly from new users.

Flamers - post hostile or insulting messages. Similar to trolls, but may be sincere.

Sock-puppets - pseudonyms created by a single user, for example, to provide apparent support their argument, or a straw man for them to argue against.

A kook is just an idiot.

The problem is that it can be hard to spot the difference between a genuine contributor and one of these nefarious fellows, even within a moderated forum.

For more on the etymology of these and related terms, see:

Dave - I believe the word in question rhymes with "tanker".

  • 10.
  • At 09:46 AM on 21 Aug 2006,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

To Peter Barron.

Ref' Martha Kearney's blog on "Digital Dorothy" we , ex technicians are just wondering how the Presenters do it? do you have a very busy FM or FM's.. runners.. plus Researchers, asst editors autu -cue behind the *cameras?( *not robotic surely) in the studio. A hybrid feed from the Editor/Director to presenter's... just to up-date/correct?
They(presenters) must feel very lonely out there...Whatever it's all done very professionally..Here's the request ... a w/angle shot of the studio in action.. just for us oldies!

  • 11.
  • At 01:00 AM on 22 Aug 2006,
  • JPseudonym wrote:

It's good to see a blog for Newsnight but it would be a lot better if it had a message board like the Today programme does where viewers could really have their say by starting their own topics rather than being controlled by the Newsnight agenda.

  • 12.
  • At 03:44 PM on 27 Aug 2006,
  • Eric Dickens wrote:

The problem with all this blogging is that it is so fragmented. To find discussions here on the Newsnight site, you've got to do endless amounts of scrolling around (yes, I said "scrolling").

I think that issues are more important than stars. This whole Newsnight website has several bloggers who each produce several blogs. Unless you're a complete 24/7 computer and internet addict, you tire of all this searching.

Green issues are important, as are immigration, schools, the health service, etc., etc. The Ethical Man idea is fun on TV, and can be a palatable way of getting to grips with Green issues in our everyday lives.

But here on the website I think it would be easier to find worthwhile discussions if we viewers didn't have to keep thinking: "now, was it Martha or Paul that started the discussion of the financing of transport and infrastructure? Or was it Justin? And what was the title of the blog?" And so on.

We've got Off Message, and RSS, and a list of bloggers, and new entries. It's all too complicated!

A couple of corrections to LittleRichardJohn's entry above seem to be in order. First, Geriatric1927's Video Blog is on not UTube as was stated. Second, just to cut off any rumors before they get started, Peter has not made a single pound from doing his videos and does not wish to. He has had a number of oppertunities to do so but has flat out refused them all.

He has also tried to avoid any media attention and said no to dozens of news agencies, television programs and magazines. I know this because I am his friend and run his website for him as well as act as pass on the e-mail to him that may be of interest. Peter appreciates the kind words from so many thousands of individuals who have taken the time to write to or about him, but cannot possibly respond to them all personally.

I just want to make this clear in as many places as I can, which is difficult considering new ones crop up daily. If you want to ask Peter a question, e-mail the included address or visit his website, If you're from the media, you have to do the same thing. Peter will not respond to any more media inquiries directly.

Thank You,
Michael A. Smith

  • 14.
  • At 03:14 PM on 01 Dec 2006,
  • Steve wrote:


Re: the 2 nightly phone calls to the Newsnight studio, does Jeremy's agent not get fed up phoning in?

  • 15.
  • At 01:22 PM on 05 Jan 2007,
  • chris wrote:

I find the morals of this litigation interesting being as Im a non "name" street photographer and therefore my work worth nothing financially. I think it gets at how our world is now so divided. I know what I would do in such a case but better not say here.

..Rather helpful information you have here. Grazie!

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