Nick's Notes

Knocking on Evan’s door

I’d like to say something positive about the BBC. No, really. Having written blogs recently about the rapidly diminishing ability to ask questions and even more importantly the need to listen to the answers before asking a follow up question, it’s time to give credit where credit is due. The BBC has brought Evan Davis back to Radio 4 as the lead presenter of PM, replacing Eddie Mair. When I say back, he’s not really been away fully. Whilst he’s been presenting Newsnight (and not always comfortably) he’s also been doing some radio programmes too.

Evan Davis is an economist as well as a journalist. He uses his economics knowledge to ask almost forensic questions to get to the nub of the interviewee’s position. He’s quite gentle in tone, and moves on from points where he judges, usually accurately, that he’s not going to get any more, but often with an aside that indicates he’s not entirely satisfied that the stated position is tenable. I look forward to returning to Radio 4 in the evening, even if Today still disappoints in the mornings.

During the recent political storms about Brexit, Adam Boulton has been back on Sky News fronting their live coverage. He’s Editor at Large, a rather grand title, and his presence must create some challenges for Faisal Islam, the Sky Political Editor. Adam Boulton is a giant amongst political broadcasters, which may not be unconnected from the news that Faisal Islam is going to the BBC soon anyway. And we think CIOs have it tough working with and around colleagues.

Mr Boulton admitted that interviewing outside, especially with the noise of demonstrations that live TV attracts is not always easy. He’d recently done a two-way interview where both of his interviewees were remote from him, and he couldn’t hear anything through his earpiece. He admitted in his Sunday Times article that he had to wait for the images of the people on screen to stop moving their lips before he asked another question.

So perhaps I should I take back everything I have said about questioning recently. What you really need is a decent sized ego, and more knowledge on the subject under discussion than most other people in the field. Then you don’t need to listen to the answers and nobody can tell that you’re not. But then Mr Boulton doesn’t have to put it all into action later.

But, just to be blindingly obvious, almost no CIO is in a position where they don’t need to listen to colleagues nor ask intelligent questions and respond to the answers. We have to be good at this as the future of our businesses depend on it.

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