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Upsetting people on Today

Friday 12 November 2010, 13:55

Roger Bolton Roger Bolton

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Justin Webb and Sarah Montague presenting their daily round-up after the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4.

Which Today programme presenter reportedly said he wants to "upset" more people?

Dead easy.

John Humphrys surely?

Well, no actually.

Step forward Mr Nice-Guy himself, the ever courteous Justin Webb, widely admired by many Feedback listeners for the way he doesn't interrupt every few seconds. Naturally he appreciates the admiration but he's gone public in his admission to up the ante with harder interviews and interruptions.

In Feedback this week I ruthlessly cross examine Mr Webb about this apparent change of heart, interrupting him frequently and insisting he answers my questions. I also put to him some of the embarrassing emails from listeners who were delighted when the Today programme was taken off-air as a result of the recent National Union of Journalists' strike and replaced by birdsong from The Wash.

How did Mr Webb respond to my aggressive questioning? Did he fight fire with fire? Do you care about interviewing style?

Roger Bolton is the ever so polite and inoffensive presenter of Feedback.

  • Listen again to this week's Feedback, produced by Karen Pirie, get in touch with Feedback, find out how to join the listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
  • Feedback is now on Twitter. Follow @BBCFeedback.
  • Justin asserted that he'd like to upset more people in an interview with James Robinson in The Guardian. Gillian Reynolds in The Telegraph was one of those who enjoyed a morning without Today.
  • The picture shows Justin presenting Today with Sarah Montague

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    Comment number 1.

    I would not describe the interview as aggressive, but as "properly pressed"! Justin Webb made good use of laughter and came across as a friendly and relaxed sort of person. More gentle warmth than fire, but no real way of measuring core temperature.

    I agree with what he said: interviewees who come to the studio with a rehearsed script and who consistently refuse to answer questions directly are time-wasters who should be interrupted. It can be infuriating when politicians evade questions and simply point out the iniquities of the other side, or just keep repeating one or two sound bites. In fact I think Today should publish on the web each week a list of the most inane replies to questions that its presenters receive!

    The picture reminds me of a recent interview conducted by Sarah Montague. She was interviewing two people about a weight loss programme. One guest represented a major company that charges people money to help them lose weight, and the other was an expert in nutrition. The former kept trying to plug her company's product, but fortunately Ms Montague was firm and ensured that marketing did not triumph of science. Interviews without interruptions are commercials.

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    Comment number 2.

    I am a great fan of John Humphries but feel Justin hasn't got the balance right at the moment between getting at the truth and interrupting the answer. This morning on the Today programme (26th Nov) was a good example. To misquote Mr Speaker, I wanted to hear what Vince Cable had to say but Justin interrupted almost every reply which Dr Cable tried to give. So I feel Justin still has some lesson to learn from the Master (JH), but then he has been honing his interviewing skills for a little longer!


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