'The best newsman in the UK': Tributes paid to Jeremy Paxman after he announces Newsnight departure - Press Gazette

'The best newsman in the UK': Tributes paid to Jeremy Paxman after he announces Newsnight departure

Jeremy Paxman is stepping down as a presenter on Newsnight after working for the BBC2 programme for a quarter of a century.

According to the BBC, Paxman made his decision last summer but “generously agreed” to stay following the appointment of Ian Katz as editor.

Katz said it had been an “emotional evening in the Newsnight offices” last night, as a number of colleagues and fellow journalists paid tribute to Paxman on social media. 

Paxman will feature on the flagship programme for the last time in June. Explaining his decision he said he wants to "go to bed at much the same time as most people".

In a statement, he said: "I have decided it is time to move on from Newsnight.

"After 25 years, I should rather like to go to bed at much the same time as most people.

"This was a decision I reached – and informed the BBC of – last July. I shall work out the remainder of my contract and will not seek another.

"It's been fun. I have had the pleasure of working with lots of clever, creative and amusing people. I think I've been lucky and wish the programme well."

The BBC said Paxman, who has been on Newsnight for a quarter of a century, agreed to stay to help its new editor "following a difficult period" which saw the show lambasted after it pulled a planned expose of Jimmy Savile's sex crimes.

A corporation spokeswoman said: "The BBC is immensely grateful for this gesture, which is entirely in keeping with his outstanding contribution to both Newsnight and, over four decades, the BBC itself."

He will present his last show in June and continue to host quiz show University Challenge.

Director-general Tony Hall said: "This is a particularly poignant moment for me, because I have known Jeremy and relished working with him, since the day I joined the BBC in 1973. And I am therefore better placed than most to know what a remarkable job he has done at Newsnight.

"His is a rare and dazzling talent. He has a unique ability to create moments of real discomfort for politicians and memorable delight for audiences. For that cussed brilliance and much more besides, the BBC and our audiences will always be in his debt."

The BBC's director of news, James Harding, said Paxman was the "great lion of BBC journalism".

He said: "We accept his decision to move on but I think it is fair to say that the only people really celebrating his decision will be the politicians and public figures he has so often and so brilliantly held to account."

Katz said it had been "a huge privilege" to work with Paxman and said he was "deeply grateful" to him for agreeing to stay on.

Paxman, whose BBC biography says he got his break in broadcasting "making the tea at Radio Brighton", has spent his working life with the corporation.

His career includes a stint covering the troubles in Northern Ireland and working as a presenter on radio, breakfast TV and the Six O'Clock News before finding the show he would make his own.

His abrasive questioning style – often complete with a condescending raised eyebrow at the subsequent answer – did not always make him popular with guests but made the show a hit.

He made the headlines himself when during the course of an interview he asked Conservative politician Michael Howard the same question 12 times in succession but still failed to get an answer he deemed satisfactory.

Other victims of his probing approach include former prime minister Tony Blair, who was asked if he and US president George W Bush "prayed together", and George Galloway who quit an interview live on air during an election count.

His sardonic approach went beyond politics, he once introduced a weather report with the words: "And for tonight's weather – it's April, what do you expect?"

The Leeds-born broadcaster, who studied at Cambridge University, is the author of a string of books including studies of Victorian Britain, politics and fishing.

He started presenting University Challenge in 1994. His appearance in the second series of genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are caused a stir when he broke down in tears after learning of his ancestors' struggle in the poverty of a Glasgow tenement block.

BBC radio presenter Stephen Nolan described him as 'the best newsman in the UK', while Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman said he is a 'much nicer guy than he is given credit for'.

Here are some tributes to Paxman from BBC colleagues, fellow journalists and Russell Brand:



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