Talk about Newsnight


My One Day In History - 0600-2359

  • Paul Mason
  • 17 Oct 06, 07:38 AM

The British Library is encouraging us all to blog about our daily experience today. If you want to have a go, click here. It's being done to promote "history" and you are supposed to include stuff about how history has affected your day. It will all be useful in 2207 they say. Since most of us are not lucky enough, like Samuel Pepys, to be able to write "got up, drank my morning draught, went to France to bring about the restoration of the Stuart monarchy, got drunk, snogged the housemaid..." it could be a tall order. However I am about to give it a go. For the entertainment and enlightenment of Newsnight viewers I will be updating this regularly throughout the day. If your blog intersects with mine - ie you see me on the bus, or I am unlucky enough to be put on telly tonight - put me in as a keyword, and Newsnight. Here goes....

0559: Woke up to DAB radio coming on. Today Programme with Jim Naughtie and Carolyn Quinn. Main story - Bush's advisers say he should call in Syria and Iran to help rule Iraq. But don't they already run most of it through allied militias anyway? Lie in bed with my wife listening to the news. At 0615 I have to pay attention as it's the business slot: very financially literate and detailed discussion of Macquarie Bank's strategy of buying infrastructure assets. And the BBC governors want us all investigated for doing too much "consumer" and "fat cat" stories - not at 0615!

My wife gets up first as she's going to the gym. I get out of bed around 0645 and make put the kettle on. I start sweeping sand into the bricks on our new patio which I laid over the weekend. My wife makes a pot of tea (Tesco Finest) and we drink it in the garden, me in my dressing gown (do you really want this much detail 2207???) The moon starts as a silver sliver against a misty sky but about five to 7 the sky in the east lights up pink and the sky goes blue. I look up again and the moon has disappeared over the rooftops. She goes off to work at 0715; I make toast and another cup of tea, this time just using the bag, and then I'm at my computer.

0735: Sit down at the computer which I leave on standby, but with the monitor switched off overnight. Log in. Get my personal emails (from POP server to Outlook on my PC): three overnight - a Google Alert on China news, a "new friend" request on MySpace; spam inviting me to invest in Texahoma Energy. Log in to BBC Webmail - a remote access version of work email that you have to usa an RAS SecurID tag to get into. type my login name, password, personal pin code then a six digit code generated by the tag. Only four emails overnight: (i) same Google China alert, (ii) a Spam alert from the server telling me it has intercepted 22 messages. I give you the top five...

Pablo Luna (walkermayzys@col.. Prescription free top med brand$ 10/16/06 3:35 AM
Scott M Bassett (imhotep@eng.. Re: Can you help me? Need Zyloprim . 10/16/06 5:02 AM
Thomas Salinas (westbayahfq@.. CIAlis (TADALAFIL) =-= $uper VIAgr@ 10/16/06 5:25 AM
Jana Gee (blake@embeddedwire.. Re: Check out for H0T NEWS! 10/16/06 5:55 AM
Sushil Higham (arlenelowder@.. Re: VmlAGRA 10/16/06 6:13 AM email from Lehman Brothers research team called Daily Global Relative Value. It get this every day and its vaguely Marxist title cheers me up.It's a PDF, which I don't read and a kind of quiz for analysts to take part in. The question today is: "Which factor is most likely to induce “Goldilocks” to flee? (Please Open Report to Vote) A) Geopolitical risk B) Stubbornly elevated inflation C) Decline in corporate profitability D) Issuer-specific event E) Liquidity stall F) Aging business cycle." This is about the so-called Goldilocks economy - neither too hot (inflation) nor too cold (recession). Like I said, here at the beeb we are always concentrating on consumer stories and fat cats.

The final overnight email has been from a business consultancy called Yankee Group inviting me to a seminar in New York about "The Impact of Ubiquity on Networks, Service Delivery and Business models". On current budgets I won't be going.

Round about 0800 the post van arrives and rings my doorbell. I go down to collect a special delivery parcel containing the next three chapters of my book with corrections from my book editor. As the previous three chapters are still uncorrected and it's all due in a week's time, this is unwelcome. On the doorstep I say good morning to my neighbour, Caroline, a jazz sax player who is getttng ready to take her daughter to nursery in the time honoured urban bohemian fashion of a push bike: they are both wearing helmets. The postie calls me mate.

At 0800 I stop writing this and start looking at the websites of the newspapers to see if there's anything I might need to cover. More blogging due mid-morning.

11000 UPDATE: Not much in the papers. More on muslims: now the backlash against Labour's PR offensive has started (in the Telegraph, and on Newsnight last night). Veiled women pictures everywhere. Only article I bothered to read was this one, which was excellent. Being a daily news journo with access to the wires you tend to know what's going to be in the papers before you read them, so you mainly look for interesting comment or exclusives everyone else has missed.

I've spent about 2.5 hours correcting a chapter of my book (about the rise of syndicalism after the London docks strike of 1889, so definitely "touched by history" today), and half an hour talking to somebody in the NHS about a story I am working on: I may put more details in the "for posterity" version of this, but it was off the record so nothing here. Until just now I was still in my pyjamas - one of the luxuries of having a job where you know you may still be at work at midnight is to take a leisurely run at the morning until 1000.

Had a short conversation with today's output editor of Newsnight, Robbie Gibb. He tells me there is a six minute slot we need to fill tonight and that Peter Barron, the actual supreme leader of Newsnight, is keen on the story about Hinckley Point's boiler pipes turning dodgy. As I write this I am awaiting a call out of the eleven o'clock meeting. Let me explain: the output editors of the BBC News bulletins all go to a meeting at 0915: they compare notes but if you are the Newsnight editor you are also prone to hiding various exclusives and angles. After that they communicate with their minions. Then at 1030 in Newsnight's case there is a cramped meeting in the editor's office: Robbie and Peter go through what they are thinking and the desk producers - mainly people in their 20s and 30s - pitch stories. These are the people who will drive the news desk all day, not the onscreen reporters. We communicate by email and mobile phone, pitching stories, dissing others and depending on our mood volunteering to fill the six minutes not already allocated. It looks like I am in line to do something.

I've showered (green Dove soap, Aveda Black Malva shampoo) and dressed (jeans, old shirt) and am now going to chase down HSS Tool Hire who are supposed to be picking up a Wacker Plate and Brick Cutter from me - which is one of the reasons I am still working at home at 1100. 25 work emails since the last check, mainly useful. No more home emails. I've spent the last three hours in my study, not leaving my desk, but with a sub-audible Radio Four on on the next room which, as always during the daytime, seems to be about hedgehogs and women's problems.

Right, historians of the future, read this: I phoned the HSS call centre and gave them my order number. After only 30 seconds of muzak (actually a commercial radio-style ad for HSS) they told me the driver is on his way and will pick the stuff up in 20 minutes. Whatever you read about call centres and customer service in the 21st century, it's not true: hiring stuff, and even buying stuff is a doddle now - even at the roughnecked end of commerce, the building trade. The stuff I hired worked, did what it was supposed to do, did not injure me, was delivered on time (albeit by men with a marked reluctance to carry anything). Even the fact that I am supposed to be trained to work a vibration plate was not an obstacle to getting it delivered.

1151: The HSS man actually helped me carry both machines through the house to the truck. I suppose just in case in the year 2207 it is still an issue I will mention the detail that he was black; the postman was white, I am white, all my neighbours are white. The wacker plate was a Honda: when I asked him what make it was he looked at me gone out as if to say - why, you're not thinking of buying one are you!

I have just got a personal email from my local community organisation inviting me to an over-50s tea dance: Quadrille dancing with Elsa Perez. It is not funny - in four years time I will be able to go! It is 12 noon now and time to do something that does not involve Microsoft Word or Typepad.

1220: Nipped out for a quick lunch at my local Portugese greasy spoon. Took a call from someone pitching me a "survey based" story about gambling habits. Steak covered in "pizzaola" sauce with fresh veg cut up and boiled to taste like tinned veg. All in all a mistake - their cakes are good, as are their breakfasts, but I am on a diet. Sadly even the veg will not count towards the five portions my wife polices me to eat each day. In the cafe are: a builder in shorts; two office worker couples, all smoking; some burly plain cothes law enforcement types (my area of south London is home to many offshoots of NCIS and the Met). The counter mobbed by builders in hi-vis buying sandwiches. All four of the extended Madieran family behind the counter working very fast to keep up. The owner takes time to have a few words with me as he brings me the steak.

In the cafe I read the FT. Just for posterity I will give you a "reading" of what I saw, postmodernist style: lead story on Macquarie - right story, right line. Big second lead on flotation of Chinese bank - very FT, aimed at its supposed global audience. Phil Stephens comment piece on why generals should not intervene in politics (curious echo of Pepys here!) - my reaction? The voice of a Blair ally quietly making a point. Big comment piece by FT international editor - aargh, indigestible, Big feature on the succession plan at Berelsmann - very interesting. Real original take on a real major business. Most of the rest of it I have seen on the wires already. There are two supplements with the FT - the Companies and Markets section, which I scan and bin, and an advertising led thing which made so little impression on my that I binned it before taking in what it was about.

I have taken a phone call from an NGO activist I was working with to cover a planned backbench revolt by Labour MPs over the Company Law Reform Bill. It now looks like the revolt is fizzling out, as there have been concessions from the government. There will still be a dingdong in parliament later this week between Labour and the Tories over the substantive bill. NGOs disappointed more concessions not wrung out of the front bench.

I stick some washing in the machine, collect my suit from the local dry cleaners and watch the One O'Clock News. The One leads with Iraq Study Group planning escape routes for Bush, and with Blair "presser" - what we call a press conference - which is still going on. Looks like he's having a hard time. I email Robbie to ask if he wants to do the numbers game over NHS job losses tonight. We are now discussing this via email. I write "How many people are really being sacked this year - and why can't Blair or the chief exec answer it? Straight political fist fight off the back of a stats piece." He is thinking about it.

Meanwhile, on another story entirely I am asked by Jasmin the deputy editor to make a call to a key contact who we need to speak to. I make the call. That's the second interesting thing that's happened to day where I can't go into detail. I am beginning to realise it might go on like this all day.

Jasmin is my line manager and deals with my story pitches, whinges and workload: I am due a call with her about the NHS story I was researching earlier, which is not the same as the one Blair is dealing with. Since I have started with this ethnic identity thing, Jasmin is Sikh. Looking at my experiences today through 2207 hindsight, I think it is worth saying that with middle class people, and even to "assimilated" working class people, I find at least in London ethnicity is almost transparent - I genuinely hardly notice who is black, white or Asian. What you do tend to notice more is language and culture: so the Portugese/Madieran cafe's whole identity is wrapped up in who they are; and in London right now you can't move without hearing somebody speaking Polish into a mobile phone.

I am ironing a shirt and getting my suit on ready to go into work. It is exactly 1330

1500: As Erwin Schrodinger might have predicted, writing this blog has now started to affect what is happening to me. Arriving at work I get an email from my first ever girlfriend (we split up 28 years ago) who now works in the comms department of one of the organisations dealing with bad news today and we have a slightly edgy but funny email exchange where she tells me about her day so far, takes the mickey out of me and my patio, and chides me a bit over the way her story is being covered.

I walk in the office, Bush is live on News24 about Guantanamo. Another email informs me we won't do the NHS story today. News24 is now reporting on the blogging project.

On the tube journey here I remember seeing: a builder in a wooly hat with a spirit level longer than he was high; a young couple where the man had a walking stick and they both looked worried; a slightly intense looking woman who was taking up two seats with a giant bag of sewing; an actor type wrapped in a scarf despite the tube being boiling hot; a woman in a track suit carrying a violin case.

Going back a bit, on leaving the house I was dressed in: pink shirt (Aquascutum); blue suit (Kilgour); black shoes (Church's); watch (Zenith); cufflinks (Van den Berg). I know this sounds like an advertorial from GQ magazine but in 2207 they might want to know. Anyway it's the journalists equivalent of body armour and it means nobody is going to jerk you around on the reception desk of a major company should you need to turn up at one in a hurry. In my pockets there are: wallet; SonyEricsson P910i (battered and scratched and minus its stylus); keys; transparent plastic earpiece in case I have to do a live report; about £3 in change; Oystercard with some business cards. I am carrying about £40 in notes and quite a lot of plastic.

There is now a lot of business news happening but it will struggle to get on Newsnight because there are other big stories around: Tata bids for Corus; US PPI down...

1630: Following the second big editors meeting of the day, Newsnight is now going to cover the NHS job losses story and I am now working flat out on preparing somethign I have to record at 8pm. My producer Mark is hard at work scrounging tapes of Tony Blair from other frantic producers. SO there you go, it's as quick and decisive as "now we're at war with Eurasia" once the bosses decide something. More to follow...

1830: It is now half past six and I am deep in the detail of scripting graphics abotu NHS job losses, wading through party breifings and Treasury responses about who's saying what over the NHS. There is such a mixtur eof on and off record stuff in my inbox that I am not even going to go there. In the middle of it all I got a cal from another longterm contact offering me an exclusive on a political story. I know it all sounds like Walter Mitty - but basically since about 1530 I have gone into multitasking mode. Physically I am sitting at my desk and mainly talking to people (Labour, Tories, NHS Employers, Unison) via emissaries. I have ordered Sweet & Sour Chicken Balls from the takeaway: my other half will not be pleased at my fresh vegetable and fruit intake - it amounts to a solitary Cox's Orange Pippin I ate this morning. Set against that is the Twix I bought and ate as soon as I found out I had to do tonight's story - that hour between three and four pm is the journalistic equivalent to the hour when the secret police come and take people away into night and fog....

Right now, outside, it is dark. The big thing on Newsnight tonight is an exclusive story about the activities of the Janjawid militia in Sudan. At 1900 I will be interviewing somebody from the unions and then at 2000 I will record some of my piece for tonight. Then I'll go and edit it, eating the Chinese food somewhere inbetween. My car home is booked for 2300 and my first appointment tomorrow is 0815. I hope that technology has cut the TV correspondent's working day a bit by 2207 - in fact if you bear in mind that the way we work adumbrates the way most people will work in future, with work seeping into life and life into work, the whole concept of work hours will break down.

2215: They have not broken down yet however. It is ten fifteen and I am sitting in a small dark room with two other blokes: producer Mark Lobel and VT editor Clive Edwards...we are cutting together a piece which is part me standing in the studio, part me tracking over rushes, part footage of Tony Blair and David Nicholson, CEO of the NHS, trying to explain why they can't give an exact figure for the number of job losses in the NHS. Its all done except for an information graphic, which is being done by someone else. We have just watched the ten o'clock news cover the latest carnage in Iraq and it occurs to me that this is the third or fourth year of sitting in a dark room with other journalists late at night watching pictures of Iraq and quietly shaking our heads. The second story on the Ten O'Clock News is about, er, fat cat salaries.

Moving swiftly on, I am now psyching myself up to go and do a live top to my piece in the studio with Jeremy Paxman. See you on the airwaves.

2220: I get to the studio to record the top of the programme which involves just standing in a place. Paxman ribs me about this blog - implying that I should not be getting up at 6am. We have a conversation the conclusion of which is that both our lives would be better if we got more sleep. I spend the next 20 minutes in the "Green Room" with programme guests watching the more important stuff a the top of the programme and then, near the end, I am guided to the set to do my live bit. UNfortunately the 30 seconds allocated for me to slip onto the set and start speaking is too short, or goes too quickly, and I am not guided to the required spot so I start speaking in a kind of no-man's land. it is all over, like dentistry, before you know you have started. Had a long discussion with Anei our makeup woman about how to mend an ADSL router that has been struck by lightning - she was shocked that you could just go out and buy a new one, and did not have to rely on BT replacing the one that's broken.

I queued as usual to get my cab at BBC reception and Derek, the man on the desk who looks out for me, got it sorted. The cab took the usual dog-leg journey down through Chelsea to the embankment then along to Vauxhall bridge. This is a great journey to take in silence late at night with the river breeze in your face, in the back of a decent car. I have learned to use it to relax.

Arrived home at about 2340, poured a glass of port. Talked to my wife, who has seen a fatal cycle accident today and looks a bit shocked. Came to the study to write this, ending Bridget-Jones style with a list of medicines I am about to take: 20mg omeprazole, Gaviscon, Twinings Digestif Tea (1 unit). That's my day: I will post it up on the site and it will be here for posterity, or until the BBC rebrands us, or gets abolished: which will be long before 2207.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 02:39 PM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • Mike Hodgson wrote:

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but it won't let you post a blog of more than 4000 characters. I wrote a bloody heroic poem and then had to whittle it down to a few notes.

Another downside of One Day In History is its aggressive (not to say inconsistent) copyright policy. The copyright of anything you write on the ODIH site is transferred to History Matters.

I blogged about it here:

  • 3.
  • At 04:53 PM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • Abdul Jaleel (Dr. ) wrote:

The the Madonna and the baby David saga is being overplayed in the media, notably by the BBC. Why is this so ? After all, Madonna is not the first Westerner to adopt a baby from a poor country, nor would she be the last.

And BBC think of the free publicity you are giving to this megastar.

  • 4.
  • At 07:44 PM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • Mork Anthony wrote:

My one day in history?

Today is the worst day in history thus far, as all days are of late - CorporoGovernment corruption and fascism at a global all time high, the global dictatorship coup continues unabaited.

Rfid chips being introduced to a non-consulted electorate.

And in body chips for the kids or future generations.

We say no to this, but we're not neing asked.

I want to inform the future reader that we were well aware of the shameful circus that political power has become.

I want to write that we no longer are fooled by the phoney war that is terrorism, or the phoney game that is left-right politics.

And I sincerely hope that the current population of the world stops this march of fascism, lest in the future it becomes widely believed that the nazis won World War Two.

They didn't.

  • 5.
  • At 12:48 AM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • Ivan Denisovich wrote:

Your day sounds a nightmare.You have my deepest sympathies.

  • 6.
  • At 03:29 AM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • Chris Voisey wrote:

"Going back a bit, on leaving the house I was dressed in: pink shirt (Aquascutum); blue suit (Kilgour); black shoes (Church's); watch (Zenith); cufflinks (Van den Berg)"

The good people of 2207 had better not have waited all that time to discover what pants you wore.

Hey you crazy unborn guys of 2207 (and Cher) - I did bugger all at work today, went to the New Piccadilly cafe on Denman Street then went to see Boy George give a short but fierce set at the rather naff Pigalle Club in Piccadilly. Devil's own job getting home thanks to work being done on the overground line and the Piccadilly line having severe delays due to a driver becoming ill.

Keep up the fine reporting Paul!

  • 7.
  • At 09:38 AM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • chris wrote:

Spent most of my day thinking about ways to destroy Epson (inkjet people)
Ive come to hate inkjet printers - totally crap in terms of reliability. Epson charge stupid money for their inks/papers and third party ones are questionable. And thats after youve got your head around colour management geek speak. Very upset at my printer going wrong yet again. A scource of disappointment, frustration and money draining. Enlargers were never a problem, the only thing that could go wrong were the bulb and timer.

Another thing Ive been thinking about is how to improve the damp where I live. Since I got a digital hygrometer its clear something needs to be done. I got a dehumidifier (crap- too loud and not efficient) in fact I got two and took them both back, suppose they would be alright if you could put them in a room without any people,leave them on all winter and afford the electric bill, I cant so its back to research on the internet.

How boring, pity I cant talk about the xxx stuff Ha!

great 'day in the life' Paul! i preferred the Newsnight blog when it was just your personal effort, by the way. now that it's supposed to be about the programme as a whole, it'd be nice to hear more from some of the other people involved.

  • 9.
  • At 10:46 AM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • Paul Mason wrote:

Chris (7) it was Sloggi for men!

  • 10.
  • At 12:19 PM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • Chris Voisey wrote:

A wise choice.

  • 11.
  • At 08:27 PM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • Paul D wrote:


Don't you Newsnight people liase at all?

Justin Rowlatt just flew to Jamaica, single handedly ensuring that the whole planet will be under water long before 2207. So who the hell is going to read your encapsulated memoir?

Hell, look on the bright side. Cod will be plentiful again.

  • 12.
  • At 08:43 PM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • Paul D wrote:

Omeprazole and Gaviscon, Portugese greasy spoon, chinese fast food? God help your Sloggis.

  • 13.
  • At 01:34 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Paul Mason wrote:

Paul D - yes I know. That's the problem. Actually the gym, swimming and what we call the "Newsnight diet" - ie not getting any time at all to eat when you are doing an "on the day" that actually involves reporting (as opposed to the above which was just a stats job) - all mean my Sloggis are kept to a respectable medium size. Hopefully someone in 2207 can use all this in a "diet in the 21st century" PhD.

  • 14.
  • At 05:12 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Aaron S wrote:

cracking blog entry Paul. Can't believe I read the whole thing!

  • 15.
  • At 10:33 PM on 20 Oct 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Cracking blog entry. The BBC should have an ongoing dramatisation of real British lives based on stuff like that. People living real lives, seeing or experiencing the odd things that make life interesting, not these embarrassing dramas written by supposed dramatists just desperate for a story-line but with no real idea.

  • 16.
  • At 12:23 AM on 24 Oct 2006,
  • Paul D wrote:


Am I right in thinking that you personally moderate your own blog? I ask because I saw elsewhere on the Newsnight blogs an admission that a third party is sub-contracted to do this. I ask because I posted a first hand report of the violence in Budapest this afternoon (on another blog) which may have lacked some style (it is not easy when your 57 year old eyes are dealing with tear gas) and may have been overlong (in the interests of thoroughness). Understandably, they may have chosen not you use it. But when I saw the 'Comment on this programme' blog to find that it was solely concerned with Iraq, I got a little mad. Important things are happening here in central Europe. They deserve some attention.

  • 17.
  • At 04:07 AM on 24 Oct 2006,
  • Would like to know more wrote:

Paul D, post 17...Please Paul, I'd like to know more about this, if you write up your comments in notepad or word (where you can save them), and then copy and paste them over to here at newsnight, you're safe from losing your work if the moderators aren't feeling moderate (happens a lot)


  • 18.
  • At 09:19 PM on 26 Oct 2006,
  • Paul D wrote:


I have responded to you email address.

Twistys Presents: Veronica Zemanova

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I haven't gotten anything done today. My life's been dull today, but shrug. I can't be bothered with anything recently, but oh well. I've just been sitting around doing nothing. What can I say? So it goes.

Sportspeople are, are not our Rolemodels

A higher energy price is a sacrifice we have to make for cleaner fuels

Life begins at conception, begins at birth - Or come up with another stage and develop a different persuasive speech topic

  • 25.
  • At 11:30 AM on 15 Jul 2007,
  • Ken Pellant wrote:

A mine has been found on Saltburn beach this morning . It has been evacuated.

The community should provide adequate programs to help juvenile delinquents

Water pollution is the World's biggest problem today

Vanity is not a valid reason for cosmetic plastic surgery

Easter, Christmas is the best holiday - Or choose your own favorite and create another persuasive speech topic

Live with your lover before getting married

Tobacco billboards are wrong

Metal Detectors In Schools Violate Students' Rights - Or vary with different security methods and you have another persuasive speech topic

amend amount cinema theater bass rnb singer bicycle human wheel frame europe region china netherlands toy fitness military police application courier shape basic model chain modern material cultural industrial technology pop construction idea velocipede document hobby feet mechanical rear pedal streel dwarf diamond comfort tire club driver light lamp noise

More or less nothing seems worth doing. I've just been letting everything wash over me lately. I just don't have anything to say lately. Shrug. I can't be bothered with anything lately.

My life's been generally bland today. I just don't have anything to say recently. I guess it doesn't bother me. Basically nothing seems worth doing, but I don't care.

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