Stephen Glover: It can't be right for news presenters to be doubling up as historians

Media Studies: It's lazy to offer jobs for the boys or girls rather than search out the best person

The BBC's Jeremy Paxman has just published a book called Empire to accompany his forthcoming BBC1 five-part series on the British Empire. His colleague Andrew Marr will soon publish a tome called Diamond Jubilee in anticipation of the BBC1 series which he will present next year to mark the celebration of the Queen's 60 years on the throne.

Let me say that my journalistic admiration for both these gentlemen knows few bounds. Mr Paxman is the foremost television interviewer of our age. Mr Marr (a former editor of this newspaper, as it happens) is a very gifted political journalist. But I can't help wondering whether either of them is the most suitable person in the world to introduce their respective series. Paxo is not a recognised authority on the British Empire, and Mr Marr is not a modern historian.

There was a time when the BBC looked for genuine experts, rather than seasoned broadcasters, to present blockbuster historical or cultural programmes. Kenneth Clark's memorable series Civilisation, broadcast on BBC2 in 1969, is perhaps the best example. Now the trend is to seek out fashionable "media dons" or, worse still, the Corporation's own star journalists eager for extra work to supplement their bread-and-butter income, not to mention opportunities for travel. The inevitable consequence is dumbing down.

In part, the BBC hopes to attract larger audiences by putting familiar faces, rather than authoritative voices, in front of us. A good example could be found last night on BBC1, where the newsreader Fiona Bruce introduced a programme on Leonardo Da Vinci, about whom she is far from being an acknowledged expert.

But there is an additional explanation which certainly applies in the case of Mr Marr and Mr Paxman – to find the BBC and their presenters more money. Apart from a fee from the BBC, there are enormous book sales on the back of primetime TV series, which help enrich the presenters.

As I say, these two journalists are clever and plausible, and many viewers may not feel short-changed. Perhaps the BBC should be congratulated for running such programmes at all. But I remain perturbed by this lazy habit of offering lucrative supplementary jobs for the boys, or girls, rather than searching out the best person available. There are, after all, plenty of instances of non-professional broadcasters adapting well to the screen, the late Lord Clark being one. If we would not dream of asking the likes of him to read the news, or interview politicians, why should we expect Paxo or Mr Marr to slip into clothes in which they do not truly belong?

Since when was cutting costs worthy of reward?

David Carr, the star of Page One, the documentary about The New York Times, wrote a splendid piece in his paper last week wondering why protesters angry about enormous bonuses do not think of occupying newsrooms. He cited the example of Craig A. Dubow, who recently resigned as chief executive of the American publisher Gannett, which owns regional newspapers in this country.

Despite Mr Dubow having presided over a collapse in the company share price, and being responsible for reducing its workforce by 40 per cent, he left with a package of $37m. Mr Carr also mentioned The Tribune Company, which is showering senior executives with bonuses while sacking thousands of employees.

Thank God we don't have examples in this country of newspaper executives, whose only talent is knowing how to cut costs, being similarly rewarded. Or do we? Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, has also presided over a collapse in her company's share price while getting rid of thousands of workers at its regional and national titles. Last year she earned nearly £1.7m, including a bonus of £660,000. Being proficient at sacking people should not entitle one to huge rewards. I have no objections if creative people at profitable newspaper groups are highly paid. It is the less creative ones at declining companies that I worry about.

Will the real Henry Porter please get in touch

I was pleased to re-read in the "From The Archive" column in yesterday's Sunday Times the wonderful interview Henry Porter did in 1985 with the actress Meryl Streep. In fact, unbeknown to Henry, a reporter called Nicola Scicluna was posing as Streep. She had been put up to it by a rival paper anxious to embarrass Henry.

And yet, as the happy memory faded, I began to grow anxious about my old friend. Where is he? Could it be that, just as someone impersonated Meryl Streep all those years ago, someone is now impersonating him?

Earlier this year a person posing as Henry posted some disobliging online comments at the end of an article I had written. Then, at Private Eye's 50th birthday party last Wednesday, someone looking very like Henry passed and apparently snubbed me! Obviously the real version would never behave in such a way.

I am now worried as to the whereabouts of the original Henry. Might this be an extreme example of identity theft? If the real Henry Porter will contact me, I'd like to take him out to lunch, having of course first established that he is the genuine article.

s.glover@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: PR Account Manager / AM

£20-30K(DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a PR Account M...

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Account Executive

Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: One of the UK’s largest and most s...

Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

£Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

Guru Careers: Digital Designer / Interactive Designer

£ Highly Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Digital Designer / Interactive Des...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence