The BBC presenter Reeta Chakrabarti has said that presenting a news bulletin is a skilled job, after Jeremy Paxman claimed that “any fool” could do it.
Paxman has made a series of series of criticisms of the BBC and television news since stepping down from Newsnight almost seven years ago, culminating in his recent assertion that “newsreading is an occupation for an articulated suit”.
Chakrabarti, who regularly presents BBC news bulletins, said she disagreed with this assessment.
“It’s his opinion, but I wonder why he says it when he spent quite a few years himself reading an Autocue,” she said. “And if I’m presenting the One O’Clock News, I’ve written a lot of what I’m reading out. Those aren’t someone else’s words.”
She told the Radio Times: “I’m a journalist, I know what the stories are, I discuss them with the editor and the correspondent, and I pride myself on being able to write with simplicity and clarity. Maybe ‘any fool’ can do this, but I think it’s a skill.”
Paxman, who spend decades on screen presenting news programmes, said earlier this year: “I can’t see any point in reading the news at all. Reading aloud, do you remember reading aloud at school? That’s what it is. I don’t think it has any grandeur or skill or anything to it. Any fool can do it.”
Interviewed on Richard Herring’s podcast RHLSTP, Paxman said he thought little of much of the BBC’s management. He said: “I think I come down on the side of the world would not be a better place if the BBC didn’t exist, but it is an immensely frustrating organisation. It’s full of boring people doing dull jobs and pretending they’re important.”
Chakrabarti also told the Radio Times about the stress of filling airtime while presenting on the BBC News channel last October, when the government delayed a press conference by three hours to announce new coronavirus restrictions.
She said: “It was a good job I didn’t know the delay was going to happen when I walked through the newsroom doors on that particular day, as I’d have been more jittery. With live news, you just have to cope and manage. Luckily, I had the inestimable Chris Mason, who can talk for England about anything, but especially politics.
“I could have done with a stiff gin, but I still had the Ten O’Clock News to present, so I had to wind down with a Diet Coke.”