Sun sets on four more journalists at 'Newsnight'

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The Independent Online

Since cost-cutting bosses at the Beeb decided not to exterminate digital television channel BBC3, it has been the turn of the corporation's news gatherers to be dragged into a tiled room and told to justify themselves, while bright lights bore into their retinas.

Swingeing cuts will be made across the board. Newsnight will again be badly hit. After compulsory redundancies on the programme earlier this year, I hear that a further four producers will be slashed. No redundancies are planned; instead, staff leaving or promoted will not be replaced.

The jobs of presenters Jeremy Paxman, Kirsty Wark, Gavin Esler and Emily Maitlis are safe. Esler and Today presenter Jim Naughtie have signed an open letter of protest.

"We have been told by line managers to expect horrendous cuts," said a BBC News source. "The high number of cuts that they are planning across the board will damage the quality of BBC News programming. We are distraught."

Newsnight editor Peter Barron, pictured left, is deeply unhappy about the carving-up of his staff and waits to see whether or not Gordon Brown calls an election this autumn before he decides his future. Barron has run the programme for four years and is said to have have been offered a management role at the BBC.

Leading the field to replace Barron is the young deputy editor of the Ten O'Clock News, Daniel Pearl, pictured top right. Pearl used to be deputy editor of Newsnight and is rated by corporation news bosses and studio floor employees.

* Keira Knightley has everyone swooning over her turn in the film adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement, left, and has cleared her diary on the last weekend in February 2008 for a date with Oscar.

The Teddington dame's other new movie, Silk, in which she plays a French silkworm smuggler's neglected wife, has occasioned less fanfare.

The lethargically paced romance cost an estimated $20m to make and was expected to suck in the Merchant Ivory box collectors, but three weeks after it opened in the US, it has taken just $700,000 at the box office and is vanishing from cinemas.

"Knightley's performance," Variety's critic wrote, "mainly consists of bland, longing-filled greetings and farewells, along with a topless bed scene."

I cannot believe it will lack an audience in the UK. It is scheduled for release here on 9 November.

* For all Ricky Gervais's popularity in the United States, the heartthrob roles are sadly likely to elude him.

At the premiere of his latest Hollywood flick, Stardust, an adult fairy tale, Gervais, right, was disappointed to learn that Claudia Schiffer, the wife of the film's director, Matthew Vaughn, had nominated the young British star Charlie Cox, 24, as its best looking actor: "Charlie's hot. He's a real man."

Says Gervais: "Did she say that? Really? Perhaps she doesn't know I'm in it. I think she must have been pissed."

Cox laughed: "She said that? Well, who am I up against? Gervais? I mean, come on."

Gervais added that his co-star Robert De Niro has, despite being his favourite actor, become "a one trick pony".

* A footnote from this week's Conservative Party conference. Dave and Samantha Cameron joined thousands of activists aboard the 16.10 from Blackpool North. Unfortunately, the service hit delays, leaving everyone 60 seconds at Preston to race to meet their connection to London. Sam Cameron runs gracefully in heels.

The couple piled into standard class and rubbed shoulders (and much else) with hundreds of others, squeezing into two non-table seats, buried by luggage.

In the empty and blissfully air-conditioned first-class carriages, one could find none other than Dave's environment guru, the editor of The Ecologist, Zac Goldsmith. I suppose he did write Cameron's "Quality of Life" report.

The BBC's Andrew Neil, friend of the Barclay Bros, travelled by private jet.

* Damon Buffini isn't just a master of the universe in the City. He is also a superman in his own lunch hour; more specifically, in the gym. A mole tells me that Buffini – boss of the all-powerful private equity firm Permira, and one of Gordon Brown's nine camel-driving "wise men" on the Business Advisory Council – works out at swanky London hotel One Aldwych.

And according to a scoreboard over the gym's rowing machines, Buffini holds the establishment's record time for rowing 500 metres: 1 minute 34.5 seconds. "It's easily the best," says the wheezy informer. "It's not surprising if you see him work out."

Buffini isn't the only fat cat to leave his sweaty imprint on the apparatus. The well-lunched easyJet tycoon Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is also a regular, though yet to grace the leaderboard.