Monday, 24 June 2013

In defence of Mark Mardell

Over the weekend I was interested to see the criticism aimed at the BBC's North America Editor, Mark Mardell.

Mardell was criticised for his "on screen appearance", in which he was clearly rather warm while reporting on President Obama's speech in Berlin, with some saying it "left much to be desired". One lady had written to the BBC requesting that Mardell "smarten himself up a bit".

You can see BBC Newswatch (9mins 40secs in) here. 

I have a few thoughts on this.

1. Yes, Mark Mardell appeared on our screens a bit hot and bothered but he is the Corporation's North America Editor for good reason: he is a very good journalist.

Unlike some in broadcast journalism he is also very good at explaining complex policies or rapidly changing situations plainly and simply. He is a man who uses the English language well to communicate rather than worrying about the theatrical side of modern day television. Anyone appearing on TV or radio could do well to copy his style.

2. Unfortunately it is a fact whether presenting, giving a speech or appearing on the TV that what people see is a key part of what you communicate.

Mardell was helpfully situated with the Brandenburg Gate as his backdrop to give the viewers context about what he was reporting on. It isn't just news reporters who are now sent on location but news presenters as well. As this trend continues we are likely to see more hot and bothered journalists who have rushed to appear on our TV screens.

3. Increasingly TV journalists in the UK are following the type first seen in America - young, perfect suit, teeth, hair and an ability to read an auto cue with little to command respect for their journalistic ability.

We could continue down that path and have "Ken and Barbie" reading the evening news and reporting from Berlin. Let us hope that we do not and good journalists such as Mark Mardell still have a place on our screens.

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