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: