Former Newsnight editor: ‘stop obsessing over the next host’s gender’

"Newsnight is bigger than its presenters," says John Morrison

Newsnight logo screenshot (BBC)

With current host Evan Davis bowing out of Newsnight after four years in the hot seat, following Jeremy Paxman’s exit in 2014, Emily Maitlis is one of the frontrunners to replace him on the flagship show.

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But John Morrison, who was Newsnight editor between 1987-1990, has warned against “obsessing” over whether the next host is a woman, saying the show is “bigger” than its presenters.

In a five-point list of recommendations he thinks will reinvigorate the show, Morrison writes in this week’s Radio Times: “Stop obsessing about the gender of the new presenter.

Evan Davies (BBC)

“Newsnight is bigger than its presenters. Newsnight made Jeremy Paxman not the other way round.

“You could clone the best bits of Kirsty Wark, Emily Maitlis and Julie Etchingham into one uber presenter, and on its own it wouldn’t be enough.”

Morrison also suggested that the BBC News at Ten team should start collaborating with Newsnight under a single editor, and that the show’s now 40-minute run time should be cut to half an hour, but maintain the same budget.

Emily Maitlis
Emily Maitlis (Getty, FT)

‘Beefier’ interviews and dropping “cheapo cut-downs of other programmes commissions” are also part of Morrison’s plan.

“Do this, or something like it, and I think you have the makings of something brilliant,” he said. “Do nothing, and its future is a slow fade to black.

“No BBC boss wants to be remembered for killing Newsnight.”

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The full piece is in this week’s Radio Times, out Tuesday 23rd October in shops and on the newsstand.


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