Jim Gray joined Channel 4 News as deputy editor in July 1997. He
had a boss and a deputy and a show which was stable. Then his boss and
his deputy left and Channel 4 issued an ’intellectual tender’ for
production companies to come up with ideas for Channel 4 News - whereby
current production company ITN would have to re-pitch for the work.
Gray was promoted to editor earlier this month and now has to run the
programme, make evolutionary changes and prepare ITN’s response to the
tender document in the face of an unspecified number of competitors.
It’s difficult to see why he’s so cheerful, but this is a man for whom
the word irrepressible could have been coined. His tender for Channel 4
News must be submitted by the end of January. Using all the tenders,
Channel 4 will then decide if it wants to put the programme out for a
full tender. If that happens, there’s a year’s work ahead. Nonetheless,
Gray is convinced that he will prevail.
’I know we have the ideas and, more importantly, the ability to deliver
the ideas,’ says Gray. ’We have a great programme but we are up for
The programme needs it, and it needs reinventing quite radically. I have
been pushing it already within the existing programme since I arrived,
shifting its agenda and its attitude, but that’s been about shifting
furniture in the same room. What we need to do now is move rooms.’
He doesn’t accept Channel 5’s propaganda that the success of the new
channel’s news has changed the landscape for Channel 4. He believes that
Channel 4 has a different audience and explains that the decision to
look at Channel 4’s news began before Michael Jackson’s appointment as
chief executive. But he admits that simple things such as changing a
programme’s appearance can have a significant effect.
’The absolute bedrock of any news programme has to be the authority of
its journalism,’ he says. ’Having said that, it is possible to get the
balance wrong and produce sound journalism that makes dull TV. What we
have to be careful to avoid is that we don’t tilt the other way and pay
too much attention to the product’s appearance at the expense of the
Gray cut his journalistic teeth on Radio 4’s The World Tonight. He says
it allowed him to learn how to develop stories and hone his production
skills. In the world of 24-hour news channels, all buying the same
footage from news agencies, he believes this background will stand him
and his programme in good stead. ’The future is going to be about a
sense of intelligence behind the news,’ he believes.
Outside of the newsroom, Gray is an avid late night reader and a keen
supporter of St Mirren football club. Indeed, every Saturday afternoon
he can be found glued to the TV screen waiting for the results from the
teleprinter. He’s hoping for a St Mirren victory. Perhaps that’s where
he learnt to be so irrepressibly optimistic.
Political producer, Newsnight
Senior producer and output editor, Newsnight
Deputy editor, Newsnight
Deputy editor, Channel 4 News
Editor, Channel 4 News