Talk about Newsnight

Newsnight Insider

Blogging - a new era

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Apr 08, 05:49 PM

blog203.jpgAs many of you who've used the BBC's blogs will know, it has for some months been a deeply frustrating experience, not just for you but for us too.

The point of blogging about our programmes is to have a swift and informal conversation with our viewers. That's impossible if it takes hours to get your comment or our response through.

I'm relieved to say that as of yesterday we have a new system which should be much more robust and which I hope will usher in a new era of blogging for Newsnight.

One change is that in order to comment you'll need to register by filling in a simple form.
Once signed up, you'll be able to comment on any BBC blog using the same login.

Many of you have already commented on how it's working and one or two have suggested it's designed to introduce more censorship.

That's certainly not our intention. The aim is to encourage much more open discussion about the programme and much more interaction with the programme-makers. I'm sure it isn't perfect and that you'll let us know how it could be improved.

Thanks very much to all those contributors - the Bob Goodalls, Barrie Singletons, Mistress76UKs and many others - who have persevered through all the blog problems. Apologies for all the Error 502s, and welcome to the new era.

Blog fix imminent

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Apr 08, 04:32 PM

Blog closed temporarilyFrom 1800 this evening (UK time), we'll be doing some essential maintenance to the blog. As a result of this, you won't be able to leave any comments on our blog posts from that time until Thursday morning and the comments function on all old posts will close. We apologise for any inconvenience.

The work will fix the very frustrating problems we've encountered for some time now with the whole comments system.

From Thursday a new system will be in place - this will mean you will need to complete a simple registration form in order to post a comment on the blog. Once signed up, you will be able to comment on all BBC blogs using the same login. There will be more details in the morning. In the meantime - if you wish to comment on the programme you can email us via

Blog problems - a solution is nigh

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Apr 08, 11:40 AM

blog502error.jpgAnyone who regularly reads the Newsnight blog will know that we have suffered from a series of technical problems for some time now. Comments disappear, the dreaded 502 'not available' message appears, and multiple copies of comments get submitted in error. (More on the problems here.)

Well, to much relief (not least here at Newsnight), a solution is about to be unveiled.

In the very near future the comments system that causes all the problems is being replaced by a BBC-wide system.

Under the new system, anyone wishing to leave a comment will need to sign in - a relatively swift and painless affair that comes with the added bonus of enabling you to leave your thoughts on blogs and message boards across all BBC websites.

Finally, we hope to revamp and relaunch the whole Newsnight blog shortly, with more bloggers, more variety, and the odd bit of video thrown in. But one step at a time...

We'll update you on the changes next week.

Confessions of a Newsnight insider

  • Newsnight
  • 26 Mar 08, 12:52 PM

On our uppers

insider203x152.jpgThere are two drugs of choice in the Newsnight office.

Both are strong stimulants which are widely available in the world of the media. They induce a sense of heightened reality and aliveness, but in excess can give rise to irritability, palpitations and even panic.

You may know them as caffeine and adrenaline.

Coffee central
coffee203x100.jpgVisitors to Television Centre are often amazed by the number of coffee concessions we have here. One reason, I think, is that journalists (among others) frequently work more than 12 hours on the trot; another main driver is smoking - or lack of.

Now that nicotine consumption here is reduced to a furtive minority activity miles away by the canteen waste, what else is there to do at break time? It’s said that addicts frequently replace one addiction with another; the journey from nicotine to caffeine is well traversed.

Adrenaline has the advantage over caffeine of being free - plus, there’s no queue. If only you could get adrenaline loyalty cards.

Gym nauseam
As if a building-wide smoking ban wasn’t enough, an area on the fourth floor where hirsute broadcast engineers used to swill real ale and swap stories about creative cabling solutions is now given over to a gym. A GYM?? Are we going soft..?!

Give it a couple of years and we’ll all be drinking fresh carrot juice with ginseng, hooked up to a heart monitor.

Passing the (Star)buck
Perhaps we should be tough on the causes of caffeine. If only we didn’t have that 50 minute appointment with you each weekday night from 10.30, none of this would happen.

It’s your fault we’re all stimulant junkies. ;-)

Newsnight gold

  • Newsnight
  • 13 Feb 08, 03:38 PM

Newsnight goldAt the beginning of this week we launched a new feature on the website - Newsnight gold.

From down in the depths of the Newsnight archive (actually it's upstairs), librarian Adam will unearth the best of Newsnights gone by. We have mined the archive before for our 25th anniversary back in 2005 - but now Adam will bring us highlights from corresponding weeks from past years (you'll have to wait until October for his favourite piece - voodoo in Haiti from 1981).

His first find is from 12 February, 1980 - the programme's first year on-air. Charles Wheeler reports from Maine on a fractious Democratic presidential nomination campaign (sound familiar?). Watch it here.

We've included the titles and an "And finally..." story so you can see the set and graphics in their full glory. As you can see, much has changed in television news... Do let us know your thoughts.

Mickey mouse operation...

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Jan 08, 03:47 PM

mouse203.jpgSome of you may recall reports of much excitement in the Newsnight offices a couple of years back following the return of the Newsnight mouse. The programme used to host many a rodent as Jeremy pointed out at the time.

Well, after an extended sojourn (Today programme, Panorama, Shepherd's Bush market, who knows) our furry friend returned this afternoon. Cue shrieks and scattered chairs.

The BBC's crack rodent catcher has just been in and laid a series of traps. They look like the non-lethal kind, but an email advises us, "if you notice a strange smell (i.e. dead mouse) let us know and we'll come and check it out".

Confessions of a Newsnight insider

  • Newsnight
  • 2 Jan 08, 01:10 PM

A great theme, by George

The thunderous drum roll at the beginning of the Newsnight theme tune is a call to arms. Or rather, a call to ears and eyeballs - yours.

george_fenton.jpgIt demands your attention, and - together with an arresting headline - provides some dramatic punctuation that makes it clear this isn’t a continuation of the Graham Norton Show.

The music was written by George Fenton, a man whose distinguished musical range spans movies like Gandhi, The Madness of King George and Groundhog Day.

He also had a bit part years ago in Emmerdale Farm. (Where did it all go wrong?!)

Lime groove

The original version of the Newsnight theme was recorded at Lime Grove’s television music studio, a few roads away from us in London’s verdant Shepherd’s Bush. It was remixed in the mid-90s to, erm, sex it up a bit: turning the electric guitar up to 11, giving it more stereo oomph for the coming digital age.

(Rock’n’roll mythology has it that our esteemed Editor, Peter, played guitar on a further remix last year.)
The French horns carry the tune in an innovative musical line-up that few composers outside of the Beach Boys’ in-house genius Brian Wilson would get away with. (Wilson combines a French horn with a harmonica in the intro to God Only Knows.)

In a quirky twist of television fate, the music studio where the Newsnight theme was remixed is now home to CBeebies and CBBC, the BBC’s offerings for younger viewers. But Newsnight’s youthful connections don’t stop there.

Studio swap

The studio that Newsnight comes from nightly was once home to kids’ weekend jollities such as Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, Saturday Superstore and Going Live. Imagine it: our Emily purveying serious journalism only inches away from where Keith Chegwin used to giggle his guts off!

emily203x300.jpgSometimes when I traipse the long corridor back from the studio to the office after Newsnight has finished, I fancy I can hear the ghostly pleas of Noel Edmonds demanding a chance to break free of Swap Shop and present a grown-ups’ quiz show featuring an inaudible banker.

Or maybe it’s Fenton’s masterpiece still ringing in my ears.

The tension of the timpani roll at the beginning and the brooding Newsnight theme that follows imply a world in turmoil. But the musical resolution with the horns riding high at the end says, it might be a dark world out there but Emily’s done her level best to help you make sense of it.

Don’t have nightmares...

Confessions of a Newsnight insider

  • Newsnight
  • 4 Dec 07, 03:37 PM

Jeremy Paxman bought me dinner last night.
Canapés, candlelight, cocktail music..? Yeah, right.
He thrusts a £20 note at me, its silver strip catching the fierce fluorescents in his office and says, “I’ll have the meal deal - and get something for yourself”.
Then with that trademark televisual twinkle in his eye he adds, ‘And don’t ever say I don’t buy you dinner!’
The 6.30 food order is something of a NN office ritual. Nearly everything we do is deadline driven and the idea of downing tools and sloping off somewhere to eat for an hour is a tad quaint.

Angry hacks

OK, we’re not talking Victorian children snatching a scoop of porridge at one end of the loom before weaving their way back again. But you do see harried journos biting off more than they can chew while trying to craft a video package for your later consumption.
As the office junior - admittedly one of the Beeb’s more senior juniors - it falls on me to place the food order. You’d think that being the Arch-Nourisher of NN would put me in a privileged position, but a hungry man is an angry man and you can’t please all of the hacks all of the time.

Get your hands off my falafels

One might be delayed in a legal meeting while another is itching to eat before being stuck in the studio for a pre-show recording. Added to which, if you don’t keep enough people on board there’s a danger of losing the free delivery.
So many variables, so little time...
But it’s all in a 13-hour day’s work and a newsroom marches on its stomach. Plus, there’s nothing like the wonder in a reporter’s eye when those foil food parcels arrive. It’s only slightly tainted as she says, ‘Jeremy - have you got hold of my falafels?’
Which brings us back to Mr P’s proffered £20 note.
I can’t prove it, but I swear that under the glare of the strip lights, on the flip side of Her Majesty, Adam Smith’s winking at me.

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