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Thank you -- but not goodbye ...

Robin Lustig | 12:23 UK time, Friday, 14 December 2012

Last night, I presented my last edition of The World Tonight. (My last Newshour will be next Tuesday.) That means this is the last of these blogposts/newsletters in their current form, although if you would like to continue to hear from me, there are details at the end of this post.

I wrote my first World Tonight newsletter on 8 July 2005, more than seven years ago, a day after the London bomb attacks that killed more than 50 people, and two days after we'd learnt that London had been chosen to host the 2012 Olympic Games. There was plenty to write about that day, and there's been plenty to write about pretty much every week since then.

History, someone once said, is just one damn thing after another. News is the same. Another day, another batch of headlines: a never-ending cacophony of crises, conflicts, and disasters.

What we try to do on The World Tonight -- what I've tried to do in the 40-plus years I've been a journalist -- is make sense of it, or at least some of it.

As a rookie reporter, you're taught to ask the five basic "W" questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? To me, it's the fifth -- Why? -- which is always the most interesting, even if, too often, the only honest answer is "Don't know."

The great joy of the job I've been doing for the past 23 years is that -- as I said on the programme last night -- I've learnt something new every day. Does it mean I understand more? Probably not, or at least not much more ... but it's still been well worth trying.

When I started back in 1989, the Cold War was coming to an end. The Berlin wall came down, Germany was reunified, and soon the Soviet Union collapsed. Night after night, we asked what it meant -- was George Bush (the first one) right to talk of the dawning of a New World Order?

Then Yugoslavia imploded, exploded into violence. Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo -- nasty, brutal wars in which thousands died, in a conflict on a continent which thought it had said goodbye to war in 1945. (Among the casualties, our much-missed colleague John Schofield, killed at the age of 29 in Croatia while covering the war for The World Tonight.)

Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and an international military force kicked him out again, but left him in power in Baghdad. Somalia disintegrated into anarchy, and Rwanda drowned in the blood of the 800,000 people killed in the genocide of 1994.

Nelson Mandela was freed from jail, and apartheid made way for democracy in South Africa. In 1998 came the Good Friday agreement and the end (almost) of the violence in Northern Ireland and the IRA's bombing campaign.

As the nineties turned into the noughties, we talked endlessly of liberal interventionism, the Blair doctrine, the responsibility to protect -- fine-sounding phrases to describe a desperate, perhaps forlorn, hope that somehow the combined might of international powers could save civilians from the horrors of war and oppression.

Then came 9/11, followed by the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. A decade of bomb attacks, blamed on jihadis inspired by al Qaeda: among them Bali in 2002 (more than 200 dead); Madrid 2004 (nearly 200 dead); the London bombings in 2005; Mumbai 2008 (160 dead).

China and India became major economic powers; climate change became a major source of international concern; the internet, mobile phones, Facebook and Twitter revolutionised the way we communicate with each other, do business with each other, and defame each other.

You get the picture: over the past two decades, the world has changed in countless fundamental ways. And of course, it is still changing. Governments are still struggling to control a globalised economy; the international financial system struggles to recover from the near melt-down caused by reckless lending and casino banking. Britain still hasn't decided what it wants its relationship to be with the rest of the EU; nor has the US decided what kind of relationship it wants with China.

In many ways -- although it's easy to forget this amid the babble of the headlines -- the world is a far, far better place than it was 23 years ago.

Fewer women die in childbirth; fewer children die before the age of five. In 1990, roughly half the global population lived on less than a dollar a day; by 2007, the proportion had shrunk to 28 per cent. Economic growth has been faster in the poorest regions like sub-Saharan Africa than across the world as a whole.

We're also winning the global battle against infectious diseases. Between 1999 and 2005, thanks to the spread of vaccinations, the number of children who died annually from measles dropped by 60 per cent. The proportion of the world's infants vaccinated against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus climbed from less than half to more than 80 per cent between 1985 and 2008.

I shall continue to watch, and read, and think -- and write. So if you'd like to go on hearing from me -- and I very much hope you will -- add my personal blog to your RSS feed or send me an email to robin.lustig@me.com with the word "newsletter" in the subject line. I'll take it from there.

The World Tonight newsletters will continue in a different form -- and they'll go on arriving in your inbox just as they do now.

So I won't say goodbye, but I will say thank you. Thank you for listening to the programme, and thank you for reading this blog. Let's stay in touch.


  • Comment number 1.

    Thanks Robin - as you said last night, good luck..!

  • Comment number 2.

    Excellent, and welcome to a new world of blissful freedom. I have bookmarked your blog. Mine, by the way, is https://mferrar.wordpress.com/. All the best. Marcus

  • Comment number 3.

    I was thinking how much I would miss you, and then I saw your options:
    I have emailed you with "newsletter" in the subject line.
    Wherever you go, whatever you get into, best of luck and my best wishes for personal satisfaction and success.

  • Comment number 4.

    Only two words to add--

    Who, What, When, Where, Why --am I ?

    Do the contributions on the new blog appear only when you are awake ?

  • Comment number 5.

    Oh, no! Not another great broadcaster sailing off after the shipping forecast. Shall miss greatly your wisdom, warmth and dry humour, Mr Lustigious. All good wishes for your new broadcasting voyages and will listen out keenly for your reports.

  • Comment number 6.

    I'll miss this blog. Not least because it was one of the few remaining that allowed a proper discussion to evolve in more than 140 characters.

    Doubtless what is left will be deemed easier, faster, cheaper and better.

    And any taking issue can always be referred.

  • Comment number 7.

    #6 Junkkmale you'll still be able to post comments on my personal blog at the link above. I look forward to seeing you there.

  • Comment number 8.

    But I imagine after going through all that, Mr. Lustig, you have emerged with your left-wing tunnel vision and prejudice intact, though perhaps less intent on inflicting it on others.

    I imagine you are still speculating on whether Obama will "get tough" with Israel while never even thinking of posing the same question regarding the Palestinians.

  • Comment number 9.

    JunkkMale: I'll miss this blog. Not least because it was one of the few remaining that allowed a proper discussion to evolve in more than 140 characters.

    But not much more. How can anyone possibly develop a discussion in the few lines that are allowed here? The Twitterising and Facebookishness the BBC has so keenly adopted speaks volumes about its aversion to open, uncensored debate.

  • Comment number 10.

    Being a long time listener of BBC online I had to say from US that you'll be missed. Mr. Robin, all the best from here on.

  • Comment number 11.

    '7. At 19:10 17th Dec 2012, Robin Lustig wrote:
    #6 Junkkmale you'll still be able to post comments on my personal blog at the link above. I look forward to seeing you there.'

    Well, I may on occasion have taken issue here, but the courtesy of a reply and such a kind invitation is too seductive to resist to part now. Au revoir over adieu it is then.

    FWIW, I think you may have caught the last helicopter just in time, as I see what the BBC's Premier News Magazine has decided is all the news we need (TT... they are not doing well for reaction, even via their twitter & FB boltholes, so there are pockets of hope still)...


  • Comment number 12.

    I will miss your voice, especially in those moments when you asked the question the powerful man or woman didn't want to answer-- and then, you asked it again. With that marvelous inflection that said, you don't actually expect us to believe that, do you? Thank you.

  • Comment number 13.

    #8 and #9 TrueToo

    BBC News comes to Burma
    06:50am on 18 Dec 2012
    Mr. Horrocks, with all the BBC's propagandist highlighting of facts it likes and minimising or ignoring facts it doesn't like, all the grinding bias against Israelis, US Republicans, Tories, global-warming sceptics and anyone else that doesn't slot in with its leftie agenda, you still think you are impartial and responsible?

    And you really believe you have something to teach anyone else?


    --Seems to be a fixed daily pattern ?

  • Comment number 14.

    JunkkMale: (TT... they are not doing well for reaction, even via their twitter & FB boltholes, so there are pockets of hope still)...

    I wouldn't know since, I avoid Twitter and Facebook like the plague but I'll take your word for it.

    It's good to know, since the BBC needs to be shaken out of its complacent belief in its own magnificence.

  • Comment number 15.

    Thank you for bringing the world closer ! I will miss your voice!

  • Comment number 16.

    'It's good to know, since the BBC needs to be shaken out of its complacent belief in its own magnificence.'

    It might yet happen.


    Top-rated comment:

    ‘Hang on a minute, if those ‘BBC execs’ knew about a criminal offence and made no attempt to report it to the police they are complicit in the crimes and should be prosecuted. End of story. Or are the BBC immune from normal laws, like politicians??'

    That is, of course, the DM, which can be easily dismissed for, well, not being the Guardian.


    Lose it and, more critically, its readers, and there may be more than a slight tremor in the Force yet.

    Just questions being asked; powers being held to account.

  • Comment number 17.

    'It's good to know, since the BBC needs to be shaken out of its complacent belief in its own magnificence.'

    "But I imagine after going through all that, Mr. Lustig, you have emerged with your left-wing tunnel vision and prejudice intact"

    "And you really believe you have something to teach anyone else?"

    "QuietOakTree, I have no idea what you are talking about and no intention of clicking on your links if you can't be bothered to explain yourself."

    -- It appears that more than one are ´casting the first stone´?

    --or have we´The Magnificent Ambersons´?

  • Comment number 18.

    17. At 17:22 19th Dec 2012, quietoaktree

    "But I imagine after going through all that, Mr. Lustig, you have emerged with your left-wing tunnel vision and prejudice intact"

    An apparent, if personal critique of certain leanings based on what is broadcast or published, clearly understood but disagreed with.

    '"QuietOakTree, I have no idea what you are talking about and no intention of clicking on your links if you can't be bothered to explain yourself."

    An apparent, if personal critique of certain abilities in clarity based on what is published, disagreed with as far as it goes but then declining the opportunity to try and sort out the author's work for them.

    There's a difference.

    'It appears that more than one are ´casting the first stone´?'

    While others appear to be setting off flash-bangs in glass theatres to distract the audience from the 'performance'.

    All the world's a stage...


  • Comment number 19.

    #18 JunkkMale

    --Thanks for the link.

    -- The problem has always existed in the UK (and America). The author places the blame on the TV stations --I would place it on the Nationalism present, as the daily newspapers were much worse.

    What surprises me is the author mentions it only now -- the ´Island of the Uninformed´ was present long before his birth.

    (Original description was used in DDR to describe the area around Dresden that could not receive West German TV --´Valley of the Uninformed´)

  • Comment number 20.

    '19. At 22:20 19th Dec 2012, quietoaktree wrote:
    --Thanks for the link.'

    Welcome. Here's another..


    It's a Christmas present of humour to all who do not have hearts of stone.

    It would seem that DGs... past present and future, do all seem sourced from the Valley of the Uninformed´. Lucky it does not affect market rate talent rates or, indeed, payoffs.

    ps: The current Newsnight twitter feed and FB pages are rich seams too.

  • Comment number 21.

    #20 JunkkMale

    -- While the ´Saville case´ is a tragedy for the victims and the denials ´entertaining´, it is how the larger role of media in the UK has formed the society and its beliefs over many decades that interests me.

    For the masses it was newspapers, film newsreels, radio and television. The internet was introduced when the ´axioms´for many citizens (most?) had already been decided and generally accepted. No society is immune from one-sided ´propaganda´or by the omission of opposite views. One begins with children ´waving flags´at kindergarten --and the rest is one-sided history.

    A reporter or correspondent who has ´won their spurs´only in their own society and used (if any) foreign excursions to only praise that society upon return is in the wrong job.

    America has the McCarthyism excuse, the UK class divisions (Colonialism etc) and (say) Greece its total dysfunction --all affect and often dominate how news is reported and commented both at home and from abroad in most National media.

    There are of course possible exceptions --


    "In Greece – a country that is dysfunctional, prone to escapism and the absurd – capitalism created the illusion that everyone had the right and the means to live as though they were rich. The result was that the lines between the financial strata into which every society is divided were erased. Working-class folk gave their children skills that would not prove helpful for their futures. The privileges of the wealthier classes became the birthright of every child with two working parents." etc.

    -- Worth reading --especially for those discussing Europe and who know little about Greece.

    -The BBC also has its share of those who wish to ´bend the news and comments´--with some probably hoping for Feudal titles ´for services rendered´

    -some others ask " who?, what?, when?, where? and why? -- much to the dissatisfaction of ´TrueToo´-- when he is presented both sides of an argument.

    --Sorry, but I had to bring in a few thoughts --hope it does not confuse ?

  • Comment number 22.

    I had to bring in a few thoughts

    As is your right. The option of other to pay heed. But only in one, unique case is funding the process via compulsion, uniquely.

    hope it does not confuse ?

    What you share, no. What I just did above... it is hard to comprehend, yes.


    From whom, by what means, when there is no accountability or means of imposing check or balance from outside the BBC bubble, I remain unclear.

  • Comment number 23.

    More changes needed
    re: Newtown, CT USA symptoms of changes needed in the USA

    Issue 1: Being a gun owner means being responsible for accessibility.
    Being an irresponsible gun/s owner can =
    Child endangerment
    Community endangerment
    Issue 2: Public schools and the teachers that work there are the front line work force documenting the children with developmental disabilities and being emotionally disturbed in order to try to get them the help they need for their success in their academics and personal lives. There is probably historical documentation on Adam Lanza while he was in K-12 that indicated he might be needing support, guidance, and assistance to accommodate to what we perceive as a normal life. These are normally referred to as "special education" students. Special ed is not just what was formerly referred to as mental retardation or brain damaged or some combination with physical disabilities. Every classroom teacher and all of a school's support staff can detect these students and encourage but not require that the parents choose to have their student variously tested. Many parents choose to not have testing done as they fear stigmatization for their child. That child goes unassisted. I see it every day. Often times the documentation is onerous before any help is even considered. It is a legal minefield.
    Personally, I wouldn’t want the liability or weight on my conscience, the potential to devastate my family’s finances and good name if I didn’t take full responsibility to take all possible actions and obtain all possible assistance to insure the safety and security of that child, the rest of the family, and my community for the length of their life, in other words, not just until they reach the age of majority.

    One child's problems, Adam Lanza, has become those of a de-sensitized, violent-type-play and entertainment nation as he may've sat at home without a job or friends for balance and perspective, in other words, reality checks.
    Issue 3 Being responsible citizens
    Nanny government and loss of rights/privilieges/self-protection in any eventuality
    Issue 4 Public Policy
    Armed citizenry constitute the United States largest volunteer militia. These citizenry need to be adequately trained in the safety and security of their weapons within and without their domains.

    Issue 5 Mental health coverage should include extended opportunities for supervised day care/in home caregivers,and/or assisted living facilities and/or drop in centers for medicine/s administration and guidance for identified citizens that should be part and parcel of Obama Care Health Insurance.

  • Comment number 24.

    Just bailed from a twittersurf as it has appeared the NRA rather foolishly did not learn from BBC market rate talents and kept its head down or held an inquiry until it was safe again to announce they had checked and it was still about right.

    I bailed because there was simply no value to any ‘analysis’ from any quarter, so I can only imagine what the BBC, with its pre-vetted set, is/will be like.

    Whaitiffery was a pervasive game that has become an industry.

    Having failed to mock the media and those it is allied with into any shame on this, I think the time is here to simply join them. With a healthy dose of two wrongs make double top of the hour ratings ladled over it all.

    So, here’s a question: what if, as the crazed shooter had approached that school, some ‘body’, forewarned by some means, had swooped down and secured him, painlessly, and then whisked him away to a place of incarceration; how long would it have been before many currently screaming their heads off about gun ownership would have been clamouring for his release and the vilification of those who locked him up, even if he was a mobile one man arsenal en route to mayhem?

    I’m not saying that those defending heavy weaponry have much of a case (other than, to me, the one any such thing should be in, at a club, and nowhere else), but for sure I am saying those currently ranged against them don’t seem too appealing in logic or argument or even sincere intent either.

  • Comment number 25.

    Somehow increasing the number of weapons from 300 million to 500 million may give a feeling of security for many non-thinkers --but putting armed guards (or teachers) in each of the 100,000 US schools for safety, suggests ´mass mental instability´.

    With at least one guard/school armed with semi-automatics (to be on the safe side), who would vouch for their mental state ?

    Who would want armed teachers when they have a classroom filled with unruly pupils ?

  • Comment number 26.


    "What we are seeing now are hundreds of thousands of Class C misdemeanor tickets being issued to juveniles in Texas [who are] being processed for those tickets through what is really an adult criminal justice court system,"

    --- Love of children ?

  • Comment number 27.

    Here's one for the thinking person's thinkers..

    The breakfast airwaves are alive with the sound of market rate talking heads trilling as another bunch of ‘A’-list usual suspects traipse into the same studio with the same backdrop to read the same script about another ’something must be done’ they have no clue and care less about as they walk out 5 minutes’ later after a great emoting take to camera for the holidays.

    That most I saw will be walking straight back onto a set where sex-bondage or beheading is an essential part of the narrative to sell the making of DVD will be an irony too far for minds that are only good for parroting what their minders tell ‘em.

    Guns… exist.
    A-bombs exist.
    Israel exists.

    Wishing so hard that your forehead throbs that any of these things didn’t so all will be well in the world… is the stuff of which Breakfast TV hosts are made, fed by smarter, more dangerous folk in the production suite, typing out the teleprompter feed.

    Merry Christmas to all on this lovely planet. And those who know better, on theirs.

  • Comment number 28.

    ´The smallest hope, a mere continuing to exist is enough for the anti-heros´ future. Leave him says our age -- at a crossroads, in a dilemma with all to lose and only more of the same to win -- ´( John Fowles-- The Magus)

    --Seasons Greetings.

  • Comment number 29.

    Thank you Robin Lustig. You have been an excellent host. I enjoyed your excellent choice of topics as well as your lively thoughtful articles. Like other regulars I regret that you cannot continue to host this blog. I am thinking of some lively exchanges that could ensue in the next few years, for example, on the topic of a WW I retrospective in 2014 when the web is filled with discussions on the centennial of this most important event in European and world history which set the scenario for the rest of the 20th century including much of the turmoil in the Middle East.


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