Matthew Norman's Media Diary

He can read. He can write
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The Independent Online

AT LAST, THE incontrovertible proof we've been waiting for that there is so much more to Huw Edwards than a gift for reading out loud. You will recall the recent BBC spat in which the likes of Paxo, Humpo and Andrew Marr expressed bemusement at the immense salaries paid to newsreaders. Hurtful hints were dropped that some contribute no more than reading the autocue, and Huw was highly displeased.

AT LAST, THE incontrovertible proof we've been waiting for that there is so much more to Huw Edwards than a gift for reading out loud. You will recall the recent BBC spat in which the likes of Paxo, Humpo and Andrew Marr expressed bemusement at the immense salaries paid to newsreaders. Hurtful hints were dropped that some contribute no more than reading the autocue, and Huw was highly displeased.

Following last week's appeal, a student at the Cardiff School of Journalism writes to demolish that nonsense, and the equally silly notion that Huw may tend, very slightly, towards the vain. This correspondent confirms that Huw was their "external examiner", and once "popped down to give us a writing lesson. We were very lucky because he'd done four 'Tens', a radio piece, and voiced a religion programme for BBC Wales. We know, because he told us. Memorable moments," he continues, "included him yelling at us to stop taking notes because it was an 'off-the-record chat', before laying into Jeremy Paxman." That I cannot believe. The idea of bitching within BBC news lacks any credibility. "He told us he writes all his own links for 'his programme' and he knew presenters who didn't and 'it was noticeable'."

How true. You can tell who's a writer and who isn't in the time it takes to say: "And now over to Orla Guerin in Jerusalem." By the end of the afternoon, the e-mail goes on, "we were all quite in awe of him as he'd conjured up such an image of him writing, presenting, directing, producing and playing the theme tune for 'the Ten' that we wondered if they needed anyone else working on it all." Something for Mark Thompson to ponder as he considers staffing cuts. "A classmate called a researcher friend in 'the Ten' office to relay the boasts," the missive concludes, "and was met with 'What a load of bollocks'." More jealousy. Then again, with Huw there is so much to be jealous about.

A PERSONAL GROOMING development at The Times. New signing David Aaronovitch, makeweight in the transfer deal that took Simon Jenkins to The Guardian, has ditched the wispy strip of hair running from below the centre of his bottom lip to his chin - a look favoured by various members of So Solid Crew. The resulting boost in gravitas is estimated by leading academics such as Professors Peter Cole and Donald Trelford at anything between 25-45 per cent. It is thought likely that, in a tough no-nonsense counterstrike, Sir Simon will be fitting a tongue stud, but this has yet to be confirmed.

I'M SADDENED BY the sneery tone greeting Nick Robinson's appointment as BBC political editor. Must we really harp on about how Nick was once Young Conservative chairman? Let's not forget that this was during the early Thatcher years, when unemployment was barely more than three million, and it was just dead coolest for bright young people to be Tories. Unless and until Nick does a Jim Naughtie and refers to the Tories as "we", can we put it behind us and look forward to more of the immaculately impartial reporting we relished from Mr Marr?

NOTHING REINFORCES MY fondness for the British press like the reaction to events at Wimbledon last Thursday. It took one defeat for Henman and three superb sets from Andrew Murray for a torrent of "Tim Who?" headlines to wash away a decade of slavish devotion. We may be a declining industry, flailing around for some miracle cure for the cultural shift away from the printed word, but by God we can still move like lightning when we have to.

SUSPENDING THE WITLESS irony for a moment, Richard Curtis is one of the most impressive Britons of the age. A comic writer touched with genius and champion of the planet's poorest, the lacing of his boots is a task for which few of us are fit. But maybe he could lighten up a little. A newcomer to the London offices he shares with other writers was alarmed to walk past his open door and see him slumped over his desk, head in hands. Half-an-hour later, she made the return journey and found him in the same anguished pose. Eventually, she asked someone what was wrong with him. "Well, you see, the thing is," was the explanation, "Richard's very worried about Africa."

AS ANN WIDDECOMBE settles in as star columnist for the Daily Express, I'd like to put an end to facetious rumours about how she came by the job. Ann was appointed entirely on merit. It had nothing whatsoever to do with her submitting an invoice, when she stood in as holiday relief for Carol Sarler, for slightly less than a third of what Carol was being paid per column. Now let that be an end to it.

MEANWHILE, IN THE Daily Mail, another voice of common sense becomes unwontedly hysterical. Jettisoning the usual cool logic, Melanie Phillips considers the "infertility time bomb" in a piece headlined "Heading For Extinction?". Maintaining Britain's birth rate, she despairingly concludes, will require importing children by mass immigration. A few weeks ago, Melanie again eschewed that default tone of amused detachment to rant about the wickedness of the three home-grown teenage mothers in the "Derby baby factory". I've said it before and I'll say it again, Mad Mel, you cannot have it both ways.

m.norman@independent.co.uk

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