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Monday, October 17, 2011

Steve Hewlett, the Media Show and the question nobody in the media can answer

Radio Four's Media Show is currently one of the best things on the network. That's probably because its presenter, Steve Hewlett, is the best broadcast interviewer working anywhere. He's done enough homework to be able to get an interviewee to explain the key points of what are increasingly complex stories and yet when he slips the stiletto between the ribs he doesn't seem to be doing it maliciously.

I just caught up with a recent edition where he interviewed The Guardian's Director of Digital Engagement about the practicalities and ethics of their new Facebook alliance and the new editor of The Independent, Chris Blackhurst, about press regulation, Johann Hari and the future of the paper.

When he asked "Do you think the Independent will still be here on paper in five years?", the editor said that this was difficult to predict, which is a pretty remarkable answer if you think about it.

A John Humphreys would not have been able to let that answer go by without mocking the inability of the newspaper to be able to see its own immediate future. He would have repeated the question in a number of different ways while the editor shifted from foot to foot and eventually muttered something about having to speak to his superiors.

Hewlett didn't bother. He knows that the media is the land of vanished certainty. To pursue the question would only have tempted Blackhurst to make something up. I'm very glad he didn't.