Mis-Communicator of the Week: Jeremy Paxman

Six months ago I made the new Newsnight presenter and lead anchor Evan Davis my Communicator of the Week for his debut performance interviewing David Cameron. My reasoning was that so many political interviews - indeed most broadcast interviews - are now conducted in a gladiatorial style where aggression is more important than forensic questioning. For his part Davis bucked this trend and managed to have an intelligent, well thought through conversation with the prime minister. Davis was assertive but not aggressive and, while he did interrupt David Cameron at times, he also allowed the prime minister room to speak and develop an argument. 

This week saw the return of the broadcast big-beast who Davis replaced at Newsnight - Jeremy Paxman. The former BBC legend was drafted in to undertaken the one-on-one interview section which made up half of Sky and Channel 4’s ‘Battle for Number 10’ programme. This significant role coming three days prior to the start of the official election campaign had the potential to set the tone for the next six weeks. It may well have done but only in so far as confirming the truth that the media are relentlessly negative about all politicians and what they are trying to achieve. 

In contrast to the Evan Davis approach, Paxman was almost a caricature of his old self. Growling, sneering and interrupting his way through his 18 minute interview with David Cameron he was even worse when it came to questioning Labour leader Ed Miliband. The man who might be prime minister come May was visibly nervous at the beginning and his answers on immigration - listed by many as a key election issue - were weak. The low point for Miliband came when the studio audience laughed out loud at, not with, the Labour leader. The return of ‘Paxo’ was though at its zenith as he proceeded to get personal to a degree that drew an audible gasp, then a groan, from those watching in the studio. The result was sympathy for Miliband which was scarcely deserved after his lacklustre start and poor grasp of detail.

Perhaps if Paxman had allowed both his interviewees to actually answer some of his questions and develop an argument then voters would have gained far more out of this 90 minute programme. That they will have learnt little from watching is a disservice from the producers of the programme, from co-host Kay Burley but most of all from Jeremy Paxman which is why he is my Mis-Communicator of the Week.  

Communicator of the Week is written by Ed Staite.

If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.

Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.

PRmoment Awards ESG Awards Winners SUBSCRIBE NOW PRCA Apprenticeship CIPR