BBC Newsnight presenter Evan Davis has criticised the combative interviewing style associated with fellow presenters Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys , as “overdone”, “worn out” and “not a particular public service”.
Davis, who replaced Paxman as Newsnight’s lead presenter last year, said a culture of broadcast journalists “getting the scalp” and “tripping people into gaffes” had created an “arms race” between politicians and interviewers.
He added: “Politicians get better defences as interviewers get better attack techniques. Politicians now sound defensive and boring instead of making gaffes.”
Talking to Byline, a platform for crowdfunding journalism, Davis acknowledged that “on a good day Paxman and Humphrys can do great interviews”. But he added: “That style was fresh once and it has just become less interesting as everyone [has] seen it more and more used.”
Davis, 53, said interviewers should do better than trying to “make people say something... in order to then blow it up into something which isn’t really what they meant. I don’t think that’s a public service.”
Aggressive political interviews had helped create the “remarkable situation we are in where… when you have a private conversation with a senior politician you come out more impressed than when you see them in public.”
His comments echo those of fellow BBC presenter Andrew Marr. In a speech in May, Marr said: “I have never believed that the right approach to a political interview is to say to the interviewee, in effect, ‘You’re a scoundrel, you’re a liar, and I’m going to treat you like that.’”
Jeremy Paxman's best one-liners
Jeremy Paxman's best one-liners
1/12 On his political allegiance:
"I have to be frank, I suppose I am a one-nation Tory, yes."
2/12 On horse comparisons:
"I've spent my whole life being told I have a face like a horse. You are just what you are, aren't you?"
3/12 On his dream woman:
"I would be very happy to go cycling with Sigourney Weaver."
4/12 On Tony Blair:
"He had a barrister's ability to master a brief. When you have that amazing command of detail and a messianic faith, it makes you slightly dangerous."
5/12 On sneering:
"I hate the word 'sneering', I can't help the way my face looks."
6/12 On fitting in:
"I've always felt myself to be an outsider. I've always felt awkward."
7/12 On beard phobia:
“Unless you’re lucky enough to be Uncle Albert on Only Fools and Horses, Demis Roussos or Abu Hamza, the BBC is generally as pogonophobic as the late-lamented Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha."
8/12 On newsreader Huw Edwards:
"Huw Edwards can come across like some evangelical preacher on a wet Sunday morning in Merthyr Tydfil, and indeed, most of the earnest prophets of news claim merely to be passing on a greater truth."
9/12 On Twitter:
"Twitter? This is an activity for people who have got nothing going on in between their ears, or nothing going on in their lives."
10/12 On English progressiveness:
"The English approach to ideas is not to kill them, but to let them die of neglect."
11/12 On conscientious objectors:
"To be honest extreme conscientious objectors have always struck me as cranks."
12/12 On the problems with Marks & Spencer underwear:
"I have noticed that something very troubling has happened. There's no other way to put this. Their [Marks and Spencer's] pants no longer provide adequate support."
Davis also criticised “dysfunctions” in the emerging model of “journalism based on social media”, listing them as “people rushing to judgement about things without reading anything about them, feedback loops where the same inaccurate things are howled around as if they are true, hysteria, mob rule, excessive emphasis on clickbait, the polarisation of sources… there is a lot wrong.”
Despite this, he said he was optimistic about the future of the industry, saying that it “isn’t fair to say... society is in danger of losing a lively public sphere of debate.”Reuse content