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‘Babel-like cacophony drowning out perception’ but new media still developing, says Paxman

So, as reported on the main site, and in John Mair’s tribute to the fearsome journalist, Jeremy Paxman collected the inaugural Charles Wheeler Award last night. His Newsnight colleagues had put together a little tribute, which as David Dunkley Gyimah pointed out on Twitter, is a ‘This Is Your Life’ style must-watch. Journalism.co.uk will try and obtain an embeddable link asap.

In the meantime, enjoy the clip at the end of this post: when Paxman dipped his toes into YouTube waters for Newsnight (which, incidentally, BBC director-general Mark Thompson later confessed to never having seen till that evening: “I had no idea  – I’d missed that”).

So Journalism.co.uk asked Paxman: you’re a little sceptical about social and new media, then?

“It’s a joke [his YouTube video - see below]! One of the functions of journalism, seems to me, [is that] it sifts and analyses – and it’s great to have a lot of raw material, but someone still has to sift it to make sense of it,” he said.

There are occasions, for certain stories, he said, ‘when one spends a lot of time looking at blogs… comments… it’s just time wasted.’

“We haven’t yet developed a mechanism for synthesising what comes out  – we’re currently at a stage where someone goes to a rally and writes down the comments of everybody there. That’s no way to report an event – it doesn’t tell you very much,” Paxman said.

“We still need journalists forming perception and analysis of what’s happening – that’s getting drowned out by this Babel-like cacophony. But we’re at a very early stage of development with it. I think there are new things going to happen.”

And, does he still advise wannabe hacks to go and do something more sensible and worthwhile, like become a brain surgeon?

“You do it [give advice] with a certain knowledge that those who are determined won’t be put off anyway. But, I think, overall, the prospects in this trade are not good,” he told Journalism.co.uk.

“Wages are being cut – [there are] apparently respectable newspapers which actually survive on work experience people – and not paid. This is no good! When you’re 21 you don’t think about it. You’ve got to think about it: the longevity of it, [being able to] afford to put a roof over your head and feed your kids etc.

“It’s always been a young person’s trade I think, but it’s even more that now.

“I personally believe in it of course – I think it’s a really worthwhile activity. But it is, I think, the case that there are more immediately socially worthwhile things that you could do with your life. I just think these are strange circumstances.”

Paxman trying out YouTube:

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