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North America editor

Jon Williams Jon Williams | 10:18 UK time, Wednesday, 7 November 2007

A year from today we’ll know who’ll be the 44th President of the United States - or at least we hope we will (hanging chads and too-close-to-call results permitting). Put the date in your diary - Tuesday November 4th 2008 is polling day. But of course, the race to the White House is already underway. The first electoral test comes just a few days into the New Year, on January 3rd, when the state of Iowa holds its caucus – a complicated and arcane affair, where party members gather in small groups and vote by a lengthy process of elimination.

Election 2008 will be the biggest story of next year (unless you’re a sports fan, in which case the Beijing Olympics might run it close). Certainly the 2008 presidential election is a key moment in the history of the United States – a moment of potentially huge change. So we’re having our reshuffle in Washington ahead of the election. We’ve appointed Justin Webb as our first North America Editor.

Justin WebbJustin’s job mirrors those of Mark Mardell in Europe and Jeremy Bowen in the Middle East. He will lead our coverage of the 2008 election and its aftermath, shaping the style and tone of our editorial agenda in America, reporting for radio, television and the website (on his brand new blog).

He’ll also have a key role reporting America back to itself. Six weeks ago we launched BBC World News America – an hour long programme broadcast on both BBC World and BBC America, reporting the World to America and America to the World.

What happens in Washington really does matter. It can change lives for better or for worse right across the globe. Justin’s appointment as North America Editor – his understanding of what makes America tick, and its place in the world – will be invaluable as we countdown to November 4th 2008.


  • 1.
  • At 10:24 AM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • gregor aitken wrote:

Hello jon,

yes the US elections are very important and i am sure the BBC will give expert coverage and analysis of the whole darn thing.

Just one wee poit though. There is a chap running in the republican nomination race called Ron Paul.

He has the highest support in polls of the candidates and has managed to break records in his fundraising. (which doesn't come from large soft donations at fundraisers but from pay-pal donations and such from everyday americans.

I mention Ron Paul because you dont.

I checked your Election2008 USA pages and could find little or no mention of Ron Paul.

I am sure Your man Justin knows what makes America tick so will be giving as much time to Ron Paul as they do the others.

  • 2.
  • At 11:04 AM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Alison wrote:

I find the US Election fascinating as the outcome will affect us as much as the Americans.

When will Justin start hios blog and will it be added to the list on the right here?

  • 3.
  • At 12:10 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

This is excellent news ! I hope that he will have [make?] time to blog on what is going on over there, as Mr Mardell is doing for Europe. Although that is, as they say, a tough act to follow.

It will be interesting to see if Justin can avoid getting involved discussing religion, when all Presidential hopefuls seem to feel it is mandatory to wear their faith on their sleeves..

I do hope he will also be shining his torch on the truth behind the negative muck-raking campaigning which appears to have already started, judging by YouTube adverts which are already airing.

  • 4.
  • At 12:20 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Ben Arnold wrote:

Did you seriously write "put the date in your diary"? Why on earth would I ever need to write the election date of a foreign country in my diary?

After all, I'm unlikely to forget when the US election takes place, given that you'll be banging on about it every day from now until next November.

@gregor aitken

Ron Paul doesn't have the "highest support in polls" - he's usually about fifth or sixth and always picks up single-digit support. His ability to draw down cash is, sadly, unmatched by the power to motivate Republicans.

[Source: ]

  • 6.
  • At 01:35 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Ynda wrote:

I think you need to cover HOW the election is going to be run. Look out for "electronic voting machines" (eVoting) machines. There is serious doubt about eVoting machines reflecting the people's actual votes! Consider this: there are two main eVoting machine manufacturers in the US but each company is run by the same family: one brother has control of each. And more importantly, the source code for the eVoting machines is not available for inspection... and there is no adequate audit or paper trail! In other words: any such eVoting system is completely open to abuse! The only way to check to see whether the eVoting machines are rigged (without inspecting source code and network connections) is by checking the results against exit polls... er... Did you see the exit polls in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004?

Don't take my word for it: perform your own investigations. Don't just read wikipedia

Which does covers the basics. It gets much murkier!!!

  • 7.
  • At 02:26 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • MMD wrote:

I am sure you mean that the race to the White House is under way.

Despite the tendency one often sees on the internet to run words together, "under way" is correctly written as two words, not one.

  • 8.
  • At 03:23 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • gregor aitken wrote:

Simon Hb

If you look at the recent MSNBC poll and the recent Fox News Poll and ron paul leads the polls of the voters choice

The impotant note is Voters not the party membership

I do believe the biggest stories of next year (and the tail end of this one), will be: Pakistan, Burma, US-Iran, Oil prices, Linux etc.

Please focus more on important news, not just “yet another election” in one specific country. It’s true that some aspects of the planet have become dependent on the US, but their poor choices shouldn’t dictate the balance of information on BBC World.

I think the most you have to do with respect to covering the US election in 2008, is tell us who “won”.

  • 10.
  • At 03:48 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Electric Dragon wrote:

I welcome Justin's appointment. If he's half as good as Mark Mardell or Evan Davis I shall be happy. (On the other hand the less said about Mihir Bose the better.)

One other appointment I would like to see the BBC make is a proper Science Editor whose writ runs to weeding out all those stories obviously cut and pasted from the latest wacky press release, or stopping the website putting up nonsense about telepathic parrots or the split of the human race. Someone whose job it is to make sure reporters read the journal article being reported rather than just the press release, and then to give us the citation or even better a direct link to said article (that's what the "Related Links" section is for!).

  • 11.
  • At 03:51 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • gregor aitken wrote:

Simon Hb

If you look at the recent MSNBC poll and the recent Fox News Poll and ron paul leads the polls of the voters choice

The Impotant note is Voters not by party membership or republicans only or enrolled voters only.

The fox poll was after the GOP debate in orlando Florida

ron paul 34%
huckabee 27%
guiliani 11%
romney 10%
thompson 9%
McCain 5%
Hunter 1%
Tancredo N/A

i'll find the MSNBC if you really want,

My real point was that Ron paul is the most interesting thing to happen to American Politics for a long time. A libertarian Candidate who is looking to make the United States the Republic it was.

His Voting record never contradicts itself, he has never voted for an increase in salary, has always returned part of his office allowance, Is not a part of the Congressional pension program, He want to abolish the federal reserve, abolish income taxes abloish the CIA and immediatly pull out of Iraq. These are just a few of his policies

This guy is gaining the popular support of the people of America, leading 'some' Polls, breaking fundraising records, his you-tube subscriptions outstrip even obama now, and yet he garnishes very little coverage over here, the BBC doesn't even list him a candidate on there main page, the few references to him do not come close to reflecting his popularity.

thats all i was trying to say simon hb

I dont agree with all he says either, he is against roe vs wade, but at least also knows that that is for the supreme court to decide and not him.

  • 12.
  • At 08:11 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Elizabeth wrote:

I wonder if the upcoming election will indeed, be "transformatory" -maybe I am just a cynic, but in our local elections yesterday, the incumbent mayor of our city won with 28% of the registered voters voting. While both our newpapers (one slanted Democratic and the other Republican) endorsed the oppposition as well as the Fraternal Order of the Police, the incumbent won. I certainly hope that there will be less apathy next year and also that the population including myself, will pay more attention to the candidates and what they say they stand for...

  • 13.
  • At 09:00 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • seamus mcneill wrote:

This is an appointment which is much deserved. Mr Webb's recent series on anti-americanism was excellent and he tends not to have the knee-jerk antipathy to America which many other media people have.

  • 14.
  • At 09:44 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • jackie wrote:

I am slightly confused... what is the difference between Washington Correspondant and "North America Editor"?

  • 15.
  • At 10:30 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Bryan wrote:

So you're telling us that Justin Webb will be "shaping the style and tone of [your] editorial agenda in America."

I guess we can expect more of the same then - supercilious, superior and subtly mocking reporting on America, implacably rooted in the BBC's left wing perspective and snobbishly dismissive of George Bush.

  • 16.
  • At 05:46 AM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Gauthaman wrote:

I agree with gregor aitken, where is Dr.Ron Paul on the BBC? I believe the BBC is responsible for some of the most quality accurate news available to the international public and depriving users of their chance to learn about this interesting, contraversial and frankly educated individual isn't the kind of thing i would expect from the BBC.

  • 17.
  • At 09:45 AM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

"...where is Dr. Ron Paul on the BBC?"

yes, his absence is odd. Could it be because:

1. he is the only candidate who is for pulling out of Iraq,

2. he is for a new and genuine investigation of 9/11?

3. he hasn't signed up to the wishes of the AIPAC lobby?

Other networks have also censored and refused to cover Ron Paul, presumably for these reasons.

Is the BBC now no better than Fox/CNN etc?

  • 18.
  • At 10:07 AM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • DaveH wrote:

Funny, I must have imagined stories about Obama, Hillary (as featured on Top Gear!), Giuliani etc. over the past year, as Bush was declared a lame duck at the end of 2006, halfway through his secopnd term, ie: I suspect most of us are pretty bored with the minutiae already.

Yes, it does matter who is in the White House, but face it, it is certainly not going to be any but the two, who become party nominees (and please note, Iran had a greater chocie of candidates!). So, who cares about Ron Paul, Hillary or anyone else, if they don't get the nomination?

Given your pathetic coverage of the EU outside the last few days of elections in a few key countries, can I suggest you shut US politicking until the nominations are made and tell us something - anything! - about Europe? I gather from friends in Austria that there is potential for big trouble in Hungary soon, but what have heard in the last six months? Nothing. How about some more on Sarkozy's changes in French policy - he seems to lean more towards the US, but is he changing the French approach to the EU?

@gregor aitken

I'm sorry, Gregor, you're not actually quoting a scientific opinion poll there, are you? Those figures are from a poll conducted by Fox News amongst its viewers who texted in on the question of who 'won' the Florida debate.

- it's not a poll of 'voters', it's a poll of Fox News viewers
- it's not a scientifically weighted poll which represents the make-up of the wider US population, it's a poll conducted by self-selectors
- it's not a poll in which people were indicating who they'd vote for, it was a poll showing who people thought had turned in the better performance on the night

Even Sean Hannity of Fox News dismissed his own network's poll as a "lot of fun".

  • 20.
  • At 04:10 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Kevin Purcell wrote:

Looking forward to it,will be one of the biggest stories in years..

This is a bit of a joke really. We should not over-state the importance of the US on us. We should also think that the specific President has even less importance. As a single-day event, it is obviously extremely important. However, a democratic election in Pakistan; troop withdrawal from Iraq; England winning Euro 2008, are all more important to British lives.

  • 22.
  • At 02:07 AM on 09 Nov 2007,
  • Carolyn Doherty wrote:

I'm also slightly confused about the title 'North American Editor'. Clearly your agenda involves covering the upcoming elections in the United States of America. While I'm not arguing the importance of these election on world politics, I would like to point out that approximately 60% of the North American continent (landmass)is not part of the USA. How does a 'North American Editor' fail to notice this? I think management at the BBC needs to acknowledge this fact and stop pretending you are covering the anything other than the USA.

  • 23.
  • At 09:52 AM on 09 Nov 2007,
  • Chad Henshaw wrote:

@ jackie

I imagine a North American Editor is responsible for the articles for an entire continent, whereas a Washington Correspondent focuses on the American National Political system. Would have thought that truth was self evident.

  • 24.
  • At 06:42 PM on 10 Nov 2007,
  • Gregor Aitken wrote:

Simon hb,

I know i am not quoting mass polls run with tight controls (lets face it in the US even the actual election often has a dodgy outcome).

The point i was making is that in the GOP/FOX/MSNBC republican debates we had a stage of guys in suits all saying the same neo-conservative/cristian coalition style rebuplicanism we have got to know well over the last 25 years and we have one guy, in a suit too, but one guy preaching a lebertarian style rebulicanism that i don't think anybody believed would be heard again.

Yet there he is, holding his own and leading the field in many ways, i.e. largest ever single day of donations (i have no doubt you will make me qualify this a few times, but you get the idea)

If you could name me a more interesting candidate for the republican nomination please tell me.

Now you hammered me for not specifying the exact kind of polling i was talking about, and i hold my hand up for that.

But will you accept that Ron Paul, who is not the media's choice for this election, yet without them he has put himself, at present time, in with the frontrunners for the rebulican nomination and that maybe he deserves a little more coverage for doing this.

Simon that was the point i made and i stand by it.

  • 25.
  • At 07:56 PM on 11 Nov 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I've read the first six entries on Webb's blog site and I must say in the local vernacular "he don't know jack didly squat" when it comes to American politics. I don't think the locals have much to worry about although those on the right like Limbaugh and O'Reilly will likely "rip him a new one" while those on the left won't say a word to defend him. He appears way out of his depth. Six years isn't very long to learn about American politics when his competition who was born here have spent a lifetime at it. They know the subtleties of the process, the candidates themselves, the history and culture, while he's learning to grope his way around. What happened, Nick Robinson afraid if he goes near the White House some FBI guy will toss an RPG or an IED his way? I don't think he's got much to worry about although I don't think he'll be getting any engraved invites for formal dinners there. Will Webb make a jackass out of himself too? We'll see. Meanwhile I'd get a lawyer unless BBC is prepared to register as an agent of a foreign government. I think I'll need three lanterns, they only had land and sea when they were held out in the old North Church in Boston when Paul Revere rode to "spread the alarm to very middlesex village and farm" that the Redcoats are coming the Redcoats are coming. So let's see, there was "Beagle 1," that was the 4 who came ashore in the 60s with the help of paid agents here and landed on the Ed Sullivan Really Big Shew. Then there was "Beagle 2" which was wisely sent to Mars instead of the US but I think the Martians got wind of it and shot it down before it landed. And now we have "Beagle 3" which has had a slew of advance landing parties from BBC World to WHYS to now Nightline News. BBC will report America to the Americans. What a laugh. Half its audience doesn't trust it to report Britain to the British. Hahahahaha.

  • 26.
  • At 10:36 PM on 11 Nov 2007,
  • jw wrote:

Justin Webb well deserves this appointment. I have been a big fan of his reporting on my country for a long time. I especially think that Mr. Webb provides the proper balance and perhaps as Editor will help tone down the rampant anti-American, sarcastic tone coming from others on the news team. Not that some of it isn't deserved, but I do think that the tone has been to automatically assume the worst of this country.

Mr. Webb has always been critical in a constructive way and I respect his opinion. He reminds me somewhat of a 21st century Alistair Cooke who sought to bring to non-Americans his British perspective on things American.

Congratulations, I look forward to his setting a constructive tone as the new North America editor.

  • 27.
  • At 03:50 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • gregor aitken wrote:

Ok simon hb,

I hold my hand up and i did not correctly define the type of poll it was. you have called me on the semantics and we have whittled the definition down to ' He won the text poll of Viewers on the question 'who won the debate'

Is it ok for me to say he won this?

But my real point is why is the most interesting candidate in the rebuplican race being ignored, or at least sidelined by the mass media

Now you cant deny he has broken the record for the single largest day of donations, or that his popular support exists.

Now simon if you can name me a more interesting US politician then please tellme, Mitt Romney is that who you think deserves coverage.

Now its interesting that your man hannity dismissed the poll as a 'lot of fun' after the result.

So Simon will you at least accept that Ron paul deserves more coverage from the mass media.

Maybe even a wee profile page on the BBC USelections part of their website.

or should we check with Mr. Hannity who we should cover?

  • 28.
  • At 06:51 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

Go for it, Justin.

We Brits simply have no proper understanding of how small town USA folk live, believe and vote.

Yes we have industrial Sheffield and homely Tonbridge and plenty of places in between. What we do not have is the vast numbers of practising politicised Christians whose utter trust in George W Bush was unfathomable to us in 2004 and whose realisation, near the end of his second term, that he did them wrong, abused their trust and who now feel betrayed will make Guy Fawkes night 2008 (or thereabouts) for the Republicans what the UK Conservatives had on 1st May 1997.

  • 29.
  • At 11:10 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

jw #26
I like BBC's "rampant anti-American, sarcastic tone coming from others on the news team..." It reminds me of our "special relationship" or at least the way they imagine it and the license they think it grants them. Wow are they in for a surprise.

You have to wonder how the Brits would like it if the shoe were on the other foot. Say an organ of the Zimbabwe or Chinese government started a "European News Bureau" with English speaking Chinese or Zimbabwean citizens reporting Britain's news to Britain and having an "editorial agenda" in Britain to boot. One thing the Chinese and Zimbabwean reporters would have in common they could talk about is how many of their current problems are the result of British invasion and colonial imperial exploitation of their countries only a handful of generations ago. American reporters with an agenda in Britain could do the same. Perhaps BBC has overlooked a minor detail of history, the American Revolution and the fact that Britain lost.

  • 30.
  • At 11:16 PM on 13 Nov 2007,
  • Robert Salter wrote:

I would like to suggest that BBC do an investigative report on the American 1872 Mining Law that is still in place after 135 years and is conflicting with the new emerging sustainable economies of the American inter mountain west. This outdated law allows mining interests, many from other countries to exploit U.S. Public Lands in the west for mineral wealth without paying any royalty to the U.S. Treasury. Please consider a story on this subject. Bob in Crested Butte, Colorado

The Ron Paul supporters need to remember MSNBC and Foc news polls are self-selecting media polls. When has Gallup, Rasmeusen or Zogby ever had Paul anywhere near 15 or 20 percent!!!

  • 32.
  • At 10:41 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • gregor aitken wrote:

Can we just clear up why Ron Paul is interesting and why he maybe demands a wee it of coverage.

Regardless of how the poll or which poll Ron Paul is essentially a libertarian who has a chance at the Whitehouse.

If your missing what his means essentially.

Federal Govt massivly shrinks
Foreign Policy essentially becomes a domestic policy.
laizze-fair total free market economics
An end to the IRS
An end to the Federal Reserve
Legalization of Drugs

In essence a stripping away of the America we know and a almost complete return to constitutional Law and the Bill of Rights as it was understood to the founding fathers.

Ron Paul entering the Whitehouse would result in a power shift that would be equivalent to a small revolution.

Now this Guy has come from nowhere on a ticket that reads like no other. He is Slated by the Power Media in America. He gets called crazy, insane, a lunatic and when a poll goes his way it is instantly dismissed.

But Ron Paul has stuck to his guns and got his message out there, to such a degree that he is now actually putting himself in the race.

All the talk of polls and fundraising is just to make the point that this man has a lot of popular support.

I think he deserves more coverage,

Especially when you think how much is put other candidates way. Guilliani, Clinton, Obama they all get special coverage because of their 'celeb' status, i just know the bbc will give fair coverage to all candidates.

  • 33.
  • At 04:21 PM on 17 Jan 2008,
  • Ynda wrote:

On 7th Nov, I suggested the BBC look at eVoting - New Hampshire: looks like eVoting machines affected the result... deliberate? by accident? How will we know unless it is investigated?

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