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News! Robinson!

Nick Robinson | 13:44 UK time, Tuesday, 3 January 2006


As if singing on national television wasn't bad enough.

As if being kebabbed by Messrs Merton & Hislop didn't seal it, I have now added exposure as an intellectual fraud to my list of recent achievements as BBC political editor.

Last night on University Challenge, a News team were beaten - no, overwhelmed - oh all right then, slaughtered by a team of writers.

I'm often asked to list my scariest moments on TV. This was it. Sitting for half an hour under the glare of studio lights knowing that your credibility is being being stripped away layer by layer is, to say the least, alarming. Now I know everyone says this but I did know the answers to some of their questions but in this game you have to be first to get "the starter for ten".

Increasingly desperate I pressed my buzzer and blurted out the wrong answer only to be rewarded by the full-on Paxman sneer. Off air, Jeremy couldn't have been more generous, even agreeing to sign a question card for my son who watches the programme each week after Cubs.

"Bet you know more than your Dad" he wrote. Thanks Jeremy. If you think we were bad, remember that we beat the MPs team to get to the final.

New Year's Resolution 2006 - stick to the day job.


  • 1.
  • At 03:14 PM on 03 Jan 2006,
  • David Mallinson wrote:

I thiught the questions were loaded towards the writers. Nick Robinson & co have nothing to be ashamed of.

  • 2.
  • At 03:15 PM on 03 Jan 2006,
  • Paula Bownas wrote:

Dear Nick,

I only saw the closing few minutes of the University Challenge final, but if that was representative, I don't blame the News team for losing. At least in those few minutes, all the questions seemed to be about literature and authors -- definitely slanted in the Writers' favour. While I was watching, there was not a single current affairs, political or general knowledge type starter question. I would call for a rematch if I was you!

Anyway, well done and keep up the ... err... good work!

  • 3.
  • At 03:16 PM on 03 Jan 2006,
  • Andy wrote:

I wonder if the questions are of the same unversity caliber or are they already dumbed down for celebrities.

  • 4.
  • At 03:16 PM on 03 Jan 2006,
  • Harry Hayfield wrote:

Now come on Nick, don't be so hard on yourself. After all, remember those people who finished on a negative score.

  • 5.
  • At 03:36 PM on 03 Jan 2006,
  • Nick wrote:

A little unfair on yourselves, I feel. The proportion of starter questions that fell directly into the English literature category seemed horribly high to me.

  • 6.
  • At 04:06 PM on 03 Jan 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

Surely that's what being a journalist is all about. People expect you to know the questions, not the answers.

  • 7.
  • At 04:22 PM on 03 Jan 2006,
  • Richard wrote:

I offer consolation as above - the question content was overwhelmingly biased towards the arts and literature, as it always is on University Challenge.

In any given episode there will be (on average) one question on science, one on sport, perhaps one on current affairs... The rest is books and plays, with perhaps some history thrown in. This imbalance is the main reason I've largely stopped watching the programme (along with the desecration of the theme music).

  • 8.
  • At 11:25 PM on 03 Jan 2006,
  • Kate wrote:

Sorry to Nick and co but that University challenge was the most hilarious thing I've seen in ages. And I don't think the questions were loaded towards literature at all. Gorges anyone?

Perhaps the journos are not as clever as they make us all believe. Doesn't someone else write the stuff that they just read out anyway???

  • 9.
  • At 11:50 PM on 03 Jan 2006,
  • Frank wrote:

Another faux moan from Nick as he embraces the cult of celebrity. Next up will be speeches thanking his news team without whom... yawn. Sofa news and dancing journalists are fast becoming the norm on the BBC and are clearly interfering with the job in hand.

  • 10.
  • At 02:29 AM on 04 Jan 2006,
  • Andy Brough wrote:

Oh come on! Its a Christmas show for fun, I don't think anyone was shown was good fun to watch and now you know what its like to be on the other end of the questions - always a good thing to know in your job!

  • 11.
  • At 08:35 AM on 04 Jan 2006,
  • Stewart wrote:

I agree with a few of the other comments here - it was certainly my feeling that questions on literature comprised more than 70% of the total. I recall one painting round and one science question. Entertaining nonetheless!

Perhaps some investigative journalism would shed light on this mystery!

  • 12.
  • At 08:54 AM on 04 Jan 2006,
  • Phil wrote:

The writers weren't all that good at answering literature questions, funnily enough. Not at all impressive.
"University Challenge" is a good deal easier than "Mastermind" - I've done both and a well-balanced team has always got more resource than any individual.

Nick your a good news reporter don't let a game of uni challenge get you down . Keep to news reporting your much better at that


  • 14.
  • At 09:12 AM on 04 Jan 2006,
  • Peter D Smith wrote:

Nick, this was your puff of white smoke, your harbinger foretelling of the woes of Celebrity Big Brother; Don't do it Nick! Stick to politics it is often less revealing.

  • 15.
  • At 11:52 AM on 04 Jan 2006,
  • James wrote:

All the comments above toadying to you are rubbish. The questions were easier than the non-celebrity version, the questions on literature were very mainstream and certainly were not enough in number to explain the huge gulf in scores. The journalist team were poor - no getting away from it. The BBC really does seem to be dumbing down.

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