MEDIA Profile: Channel 4’s news crusader - Jim Gray, editor, Channel 4 News

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.

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

change.



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

journalism.’



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.



HIGHLIGHTS

1988

Political producer, Newsnight

1991

Senior producer and output editor, Newsnight

1994

Deputy editor, Newsnight

1997

Deputy editor, Channel 4 News

1997

Editor, Channel 4 News



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