Cold Call: Sally Chatterton rings Jon Snow

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The Independent Culture
JON SNOW is one of TV's more mysterious newsreaders. Neither the housewife's darling, nor the arrogant pit-bull type, he is one of our quirkier journalists on the serious-minded Channel 4 News. Refreshingly, he even approves of its radical changes in format. He may not have the celebrity status of certain anchormen, but this is set to change, for he has been awarded this year's most coveted interview - with Monica Lewinsky.

Do the changes planned for Channel 4 News indicate a willingness to join in the general dumbing-down of television?

Absolutely not! I don't think really in the end that the presentation has very much effect on whether you are dumbing down or dumbing up. The content will determine which way it's going, and I would say our content is definitely remaining of the highest order. The format is changing for the better. We will be able more accessibly to go into a little more depth without becoming tedious.

Would you say that news content is dictated by audience?

No, not in our case. But that isn't to say that we are not concerned about ratings.We wouldn't want them to go down. In fact I hope they will go up.

Will the move of ITN's `News at Ten' have a deleterious effect on your ratings?

Actually, no. I think it will act in our favour. People won't be home in time for it. But also because given the conjunction of news at 6pm, 6.30pm and 7pm, people will have a broad choice and may opt for something more in depth. When there is something hot in the air, they may want a bit more and hop across.

You have no intention of hopping channels to escape the new purple sofa and orange interview desk?

No. This is now the environment in which I most want to work and the programme that I most want to do. I've been very restricted previously. You have to sit very, very still or you'll fall into someone else's camera shot or fall out of your own shot. The new set-up will be easy. Instead of thinking about what you're looking like, you can think of content and relax when you're interviewing.

Which interviewers do you most admire?

I certainly admire Paxo. In some ways he's lucky to be on at that time of night when you can do a more, a more, how shall we say - extravagant interview than we could do at 7pm. But I don't really see newsreading as a craft; it either works or it doesn't. If it doesn't, you don't last long. People inside the industry try to pretend that TV is a skilled and acquired talent. But the camera either loves you or hates you. And if it loves you, you're on your way.

Have you ever had a role model?

I don't think I've been strongly influenced. I think about stories or interviewees.

You must be thinking about Monica at the moment.

Yes. I'm very pleased to have been chosen. I think it will be extremely interesting because we've never heard her speak, apart from on those tapes, which were recorded in unhelpful circumstances.

Is there anything you're burning to ask her?

Lots of things. But I don't want to... Er... But I'm teeing it all up.

What are your impressions of the Clinton debacle?

It's a very interesting signal of what is happening to us. Before the Berlin wall came down, nobody would have risked this play with the private life of a world leader. Now we live in a time of global peace everyone's fair game; we've become interested in the more personal aspects of life. We're in a strange new world news disorder.