MEDIA PROFILE: Rod Liddle, editor, Today - Setting the news standards

The main conversation among the chattering classes these days is all about dumbing down. People are outraged that the Today programme might consider covering stories outside the tight world of government.

The main conversation among the chattering classes these days is

all about dumbing down. People are outraged that the Today programme

might consider covering stories outside the tight world of

government.



They complain that the widening of news agendas to include popular

culture shows that the country’s standards are collapsing. ’Rubbish,’

says Today’s editor, Rod Liddle.



’Our journalism is the hardest, most investigative and analytical in

broadcasting. We must also be first with the news and we have to give

our listeners interviews with people who are trying to withhold

information from them in order to winkle that information out. As long

as that is the calibre of our journalists, we can cover any story better

than any other broadcast outlet.’



Liddle has been at the helm since December last year and has overseen

recent changes to the programme. From 6 April, Today was expanded to

three hours, from 6.00am. In the first half-hour there is now an early

morning briefing beginning with the news headlines, developing the main

story of the day and frequently covering a foreign story. It also

includes a review of the papers and the agenda now embraces issues in

areas such as design.



Today recently showed a boost in ratings and its audience between 7.30

and 8.00am is still a healthy 2.3 to three million. However, Today is

also justly renowned for its high profile listenership, with deputy PM

John Prescott regularly phoning in to the show with a comment or to

correct a point. Liddle sees this as open government.



’Politics is a more managed affair than it used to be,’ he says. ’That’s

why Prescott’s approach is so refreshing. We tend to have it easier than

most when it comes to getting the big names but it is getting

harder.



You’ll find ministers happily coming on to talk about some new policy

initiative, even if it’s the sixth time they’ve launched it in the last

six months. They won’t come on if they think you’re going to face them

with a tough story, though. Five or six years ago, they’d be compelled

to come on and fight their corner but these days they are loath to.’



Liddle points to various noble exceptions. Home Secretary Jack Straw is

one, Kenneth Clarke is another. Spin doctors are also constantly on the

phone, although they are less welcome callers. But, as a man who knows

the pressures of party work, having worked his way through the London

School of Economics as an aide to the then-shadow Welsh Secretary Barry

Jones, Liddle is less damning about spin doctors than many of his

counterparts.



For a man dedicated to thrashing out the news agenda on an early morning

programme, Liddle finds time to watch Millwall FC and plays guitar in a

band that has released one single and has a second one coming out later

in the year. He assures me that I will never have heard of them. ’I’ve

also just had a kid called Tyler, after Wat Tyler, the leader of the

Peasants Revolt,’ he says. ’I suppose you could call that a hobby.’





HIGHLIGHTS

1990: Assistant editor, The World This Weekend

1993: Assistant editor, Today

1996: Editor, The World Tonight

1997: Deputy editor, Today

1998: Editor, Today



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