On the day that he was honoured by Coventry University for his services to financial journalism, Evan Davis, presenter of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme and Dragons Den, spoke about his career in journalism and about the state of the industry at a special graduation week Coventry Conversation.
Discussing the issue of paid content, one which has been in the news recently after comments made by Rupert Murdoch concerning the online indexing of News International’s content, Davis proposed that the BBC could start charging for content with a micropayment structure.
“The BBC could charge for its web pages, a penny a page, and it should take all revenues thereby derived and just give them back in a reduction in the license fee the following year.” He stressed this was just an idea and that he wasn’t necessarily advocating its use.
Davis was criticised for his overly-soft interviewing style after joining the Today programme last year. He spoke about receiving ’emails of lots of colours’ from the show’s audience and admitted to ‘reading emails everyday, and getting more and more depressed by how many people hated me’.
In response, Davis stressed the need for entertainment, claiming that the audience don’t want to hear an entirely ‘grown up interview’.
“I genuinely, genuinely don’t think I’ve done a good interview if I have snared them or caught them out,” said Davis.
“I think there are occasions when making them look stupid is a public service, but I think they are fairly rare occasions. I think most importantly is to make sure if they have something to say that they are given the chance to say it.”
Discussing his own journalistic style, Davis stressed that there is no one particular style that makes a good journalist. He also reiterated one piece of advice he said had stuck with him throughout his career: “If anyone tells you that comment is free and facts are sacred, they’ve got it the wrong way around.”