At the BBC, tasks ahead for Newsnight and Today

Newsnight and the Today programme are arguably two of the BBC’s most influential current affairs programmes.

Newsnight and the Today programme are arguably two of the BBC’s most influential current affairs programmes. Known for their hard hitting interviews and their ability to shine a light on the topics of the moment, whether in the UK or around the world, many viewers and listeners expect much from these BBC Two and Radio 4 programmes.

Yet, there are goals and challenges ahead for the future. For Today, the goal is to maintain its influence. Today has a significant listenership of 7 million listeners, and gained significant wins last week at the Sony Radio Awards, one for John Humphrys’ interview of the former director general George Entwistle, the other being best breakfast programme.

Newsnight also shares the same goal Today has in keeping influence, also coming off of awards for reporting by Sue Lloyd-Roberts in Egypt and Burma. Yet, of the two, it is the programme that has the most challenges ahead, as it continues to work to recover from the scandal surrounding a report on the entertainer Jimmy Savile, and controversy on reporting child abuse charges surrounding Lord McAlpine.

Jamie Angus, currently the deputy editor of Newsnight and a senior commissioner for BBC Global News (the division that looks after World News television and the World Service), steps into the halls of Broadcasting House in September with his role at Today, and until that point will be Newsnight’s acting editor. Angus formerly edited the Radio 4 news programme The World at One.

In a statement, Angus said he was honoured to step into the role, saying he had worked on the programme during his first eight years at the BBC and had been a listener of the programme for as long as he could remember. “At the heart of Radio 4 and of BBC News, Today is central to what the BBC offers its audiences,” Angus said. “I am delighted to be taking on this job at a time when the programme is in such strong form, with record audiences and recent awards success, and I’m looking forward to working with the team and our presenters.”

Ian Katz, currently the deputy editor of The Guardian, will take the helm as Newsnight editor in September. Katz said that despite the setbacks the programme has had, Newsnight can still do what it does best—quality journalism. “It’s had serious and well publicised problems over the last year but I’m looking forward to working with the hugely talented team to make it once again the world’s most intelligent, sophisticated and exciting news programme,” Katz said, adding that he enjoyed his over twenty year career at the Guardian, and working with its editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, on telling the biggest stories of the day and telling stories in unique journalistic ways.

Fran Unsworth, the acting director of BBC News, said both Katz and Angus would bring their unique journalism experiences to both programmes. “Their journalistic pedigree speaks for itself,” Unsworth said. “They will bring to two of Britain’s most influential news and current affairs programmes all the judgement, news sense and innovation we need.”

Katz’s appointment signals a goal BBC management had when the search started for a new editor for the programme. In a meeting with MPs last month, the director general Tony Hall said it was crucial for Newsnight to add something to reflect on the news of the day. “What I want is to find, with news management, the right editor and then get that editor to come and produce the most compelling vision for what Newsnight can be going forward,” Hall said according to a report from The Guardian. “It’s really important for the BBC to have a programme after the 10 O’Clock News which is reflective on the day and really adds something which others don’t—doing the sort of feature the Economist or New Yorker does.”

So come September, Katz and Angus will begin the work in continuing to make Today and Newsnight as distinct and as influential as they are now, and listeners and viewers will be keeping a close eye on what happens next.

Editor’s note: The photo of Today editor Jamie Angus is courtesy of Jeff Overs/BBC.

What do you think? What do you expect from Today and Newsnight? What advice do you have for both editors? What would you want to see or hear? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.