In his second reflection on a wide-ranging (and continuing!) career at the top of British current affairs journalism, Jonathan Dimbleby remembers a time when much more primitive technologies (telegrams, for example, versus computers) meant that reporters were simply more disconnected from their head office and from each other – especially when they were abroad and when even telephone lines were unreliable. Compared to the multi-connected world that today’s media inhabits – where, via Twitter, they each know what key rivals and colleagues are thinking, both at home and overseas – there had to be much more thinking for themselves. Yesteryear’s reporters were “unharnessed” compared to today – where, it should be added, it takes a bit more bravery to leave the herd.
Jonathan worries that scope for free and independent thinking is further endangered by the way that the BBC’s biggest journalistic names are now churned on multiple platforms – reporting their take on a story or subject to both old and new media platforms – one after another after another. This limits thinking time and opportunities for basic journalistic researching that might alter or at least enrich what is reported. He doesn’t pull his punches at the end of this second when he talks about how the BBC uses its best known and “really authoritative” editors:
“They have to keep talking. They’re wanted on the television. They’re wanted on radio. They’re wanted online. How they have time to think for themselves – to have those background conversations with people who give them a unique insight – I do not know. I fear looking and listening generally, they don’t have enough time.“
- Jonathan Dimbleby’s interview for UnHerd was recorded on 12th July and his remarks also appear in our audio documentary on the news industry.
- The first clip in this series was published yesterday and captured Jonathan’s concern that competition between rolling news stations (and, he might have added, with social media feeds) can distract us from what matters – which is exactly the diagnosis of UnHerd’s launch video.