The last thing we want on 'Today' is vapid good news

FreeView from the editors at i

Share
Related Topics

There's nothing inherently bad about a guest editor. When i had one last year – Elton John, who is a rather more genial presence than those to whom I generally have to present my foreign news list – the result was fascinating, and emphatically not a 56-page paean to his own greatness.

The generally marvellous Today programme, in contrast, has not been quite such a roaring success in the latest edition of its own annual celebrity rotation. The first two of this week's line-up – Lord Coe and Mo Ibrahim – have been singularly uninspiring. Coe, for God's sake, is well known as having all the charisma of a toadstool, and the choices he made were entirely predictable.

Guess what? Seb Coe had a big rivalry with Steve Ovett in 1980. This is the perfect, topical jumping-off point for a conversation about rivalries, featuring William Hague on Pitt the Younger. And so on. Still, the vapidity of Coe's choices did have this to be said for them: as cloying as they were, they didn't get anything controversial wrong.

With Mo Ibrahim the calculus was a little more complicated. Dr Ibrahim, a Sudanese telecoms billionaire, is also behind a $5m prize given to African leaders that is supposed to encourage good governance and the smooth transfer of power – you can only get it once you've stood down. That was the backdrop for a discussion in which the former Presidents of Mozambique and Botswana held forth, at length, to Evan Davis about how they'd done it, while Dr Ibrahim praised their modesty.

This is all fine. The problem is, it's far from the whole story. There's an argument to be made that a prize making the cosseted retirements of the richest people in Africa still more pleasant is far from a symbol of the best things about the continent; and, as our reporter Daniel Howden noted when this year's award was handed out, when it's going to the President of somewhere as irrelevant to the broader picture as Cape Verde the sense that something is amiss only grows stronger.

Was Dr Ibrahim confronted with those questions, in typically rumbustious Today-programme style? He was not. Instead, we got a lecture about the lack of reporting on Africa's good news. Leave aside the strange idea that the news should focus on the mundane at the expense of the troubling and consider Dr Ibrahim's award: the prize has twice not been able to find a worthy recipient since its inauguration in 2007.

And yet no one queried it. This morning's edition features the artist Tracey Emin. If by 9 o'clock no one has asked her whether a child of six could do it, we'd better start worrying about whether John Humphrys has been locked in the cupboard.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Technician

£17020 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Aerospace company is looki...

Recruitment Genius: Company Bookkeeper

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Bookkeeper is required to joi...

Recruitment Genius: Site Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to growth this company is seeking two Site...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Debt Collector - Multiple Roles

£21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Theresa May  

Instead of cracking down on racist landlords, the Government wants to introduce a law that will let them flourish

Samir Jeraj
 

No more big characters or Tory clowns like Boris Johnson. London desperately needs a boring mayor

Rachel Holdsworth
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen