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April 26, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:16am

TalkTV political editor Kate McCann says ‘dare to be different’ is mantra of new channel

By Charlotte Tobitt

TalkTV journalist Kate McCann believes political journalism has had a “rough” few years – but that’s partly why it was a good time for the new channel to “start from scratch”.

McCann, who joined the channel as political editor after almost four years as Sky News political correspondent, said many journalists both on-screen and behind the scenes had “jumped ship from a really good job” to join the News UK venture because they were “prepared to take a risk”.

Speaking to Press Gazette days before launch, McCann said she was looking forward to the fact they could “rip up all the rules and start again”.

[Latest from 27 July: TalkTV debate ends early after presenter Kate McCann faints on air]

McCann appeared on TalkTV’s first night during Tom Newton Dunn’s 7pm news programme The News Desk. She reported from Westminster on the sexism row surrounding the Mail on Sunday’s story about Angela Rayner, had an exclusive interview with a former royal aide who alleged Prince Andrew lunged at her when she was 21, and shared some more relaxed analysis during the panel discussion at the end of the programme.

[Read more: Review of TalkTV’s first night -news without the boring bits]

In the future she may appear on Piers Morgan’s Uncensored show at 8pm if he wants to talk politics. She said: “I think being able to see how Piers does it, see behind the scenes, get inside his brain a little bit – that’s what I’m excited about.

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“He makes you up your game because he tries to catch you out, which is fun.”

The political journalist, who says her career highlight so far was receiving a leaked copy of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour manifesto in full while at The Telegraph in 2017, told Press Gazette of a motto passed down her family which she felt was appropriate for TalkTV: “Dare to be different.”

“That’s what we’re sticking with here,” she said. “Maybe we’ll make a sign and we’ll stick it over our desks.”

McCann, who has previously worked as Whitehall correspondent for The Sun, told Press Gazette the Covid-19 pandemic had led her to question whether broadcasters were “doing a good enough job”.

“For me, there are some questions from the public, especially of TV broadcasters throughout the pandemic, about trust and credibility and honesty,” she said, “and so I think it’s really important to all of us who work here that we are fair, that we are balanced, and that we do really good solid journalism, that is at the absolute heart of everything that we’re doing.

“But doing that doesn’t mean that it has to be dry or boring. We want to inject some personality into it. So we want to be able to speak to people just as you would speak to your friends. That’s the point of this. It’s not about being patronising. It’s not about being lofty. It’s about telling people what they need to know in a way that they would like to hear it.”

The “rough” patch for political journalism began before the pandemic, McCann said, with Brexit and “claims that we’ve not reported things correctly, or fairly or maybe been oversensitive to trying to be balanced in one way or another”.

“So I think it’s a really good time just to take stock and to ask what do people really think what do people really want?” she added.

McCann suggested others felt the same and had left various established broadcasters, including ITV and Sky News, to try something new at a fledgling channel – albeit one backed by Rupert Murdoch’s existing massive news operation which includes The Times and The Sun.

She acknowledged there is “always a risk” in starting a new channel but said that’s “what makes it exciting” – and said she “never had a doubt” about the move.

“News UK has a wealth of amazing journalists already in the building so that gives you a bit of faith that there’s a solid base here,” she added. “We know what we’re doing. We’re very good at it. And so hopefully we can we can build on that.”

McCann revealed she sought advice from others within Sky News before accepting the job – including from ex-Sky editor-at-large Adam Boulton who helped to launch the channel 33 years ago and who will himself appear regularly on Newton Dunn’s news programme as a panellist.

McCann said Boulton told her “one of the best things he ever did was join a start-up, he absolutely loved it and thinks it’s an amazing opportunity and he highly recommended it.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t speak to anybody who said they thought it would be a bad idea.

“I think there is plenty of space now within broadcasting, TV and radio, and news organisations are looking at how they do things and wondering what else we can give our readers and our viewers and our audience – and I think that’s really exciting to be part of.”

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