Wanted: a new political heavyweight - Press Gazette

Wanted: a new political heavyweight

ITV political editor’s job is undoubtedly ‘the big one’ in television
journalism. Adrian Monck has had an exclusive peek at the job spec

WHAT EXACTLY is required of those few men and women who might put themselves forward to become political editor at ITV?

Television journalism must be impartial and unbiased. The ability to
raise a single ironic eyebrow after reading a government statement adds
the necessary “visual objectivity”. Simultaneous raising of both
eyebrows is not encouraged, because it can indicate bewilderment and so
alarm viewers.

Candidates should possess an endearing visual tic.

previous examples, refer to Michael Brunson (Columbo-style trenchcoat
and comb-over), John Sargent (Hogarth print), Nick Robinson (face looks
same either way up).

Candidates must be familiar with the risks
associated with the two main locations of political journalism: Downing
Street and Abingdon Green.

Downing Street congestion means you
could be drowned out by a rolling Adam Boulton two-way, and the
ever-present possibility of stepping backward and becoming a bonnet
ornament on a ministerial Rover. At Abingdon Green you could run the
gauntlet of behind-camera “performances” by groups of Euro

Keep up to date with scandal In the event of
inclement weather, candidates should be aware they can avoid standing
pointlessly in storms/snow showers/gales by requesting facilities
inside Millbank studios. (Please note: for televisual reasons, this
request must never be allowed.)n Candidates should be aware of every
Westminster scandal: sexual, financial and, where necessary, political.
This is important because on Sundays, when newspapers break such
stories, they can be effectively dealt with from one’s weekend place in
Norfolk with a scornful “Well, everyone knew that”.

This insider
knowledge also allows the political editor to put the scandal into its
proper context on Monday evening from either Downing Street or Abingdon

Candidates should be aware that covering stories endlessly
from Downing Street and Abingdon Green is alienating viewers and
leading to accusations that the media is trivialising politics by
simply recycling Westminster gossip. The successful candidate will be
willing to address this by deploying the bold and imaginative ideas
suggested by the morning meeting and relayed via the newsdesk to the
live position in Downing Street or Abingdon Green, which – for one week
only – they have designated “Celebrity Politics Island”.

should make innovative use of graphics. If, for example, you have a
face that looks the same either way up, graphics artists could
construct a 3D beard for you, which from the other way up would look as
if you had hair.

During the long recess, politicians may go away
but political editors do not. Be prepared to come up with a bold and
imaginative way of reconnecting with viewers alienated by your endless
two-ways from Downing Street and Abingdon Green. Previous examples
include taking an ice-cream van around Britain (“Flake, anyone?”),
riding a donkey called Iain Duncan Smith from Blackpool beach to
Bournemouth, or renting an airy Umbrian farmhouse with saltwater pool
allowing you to prepare for reconnection with alienated viewers, etc.

aware that foreign trips with the prime minister are not jollies, but a
vital way of television journalism connecting directly with the
revenueraising arm of HM Government.

Perfect a hollow laugh You
will be paid more than the prime minister, and will be expected to
operate at Cabinet and party leader level. So behave that way, and
don’t talk to backbenchers. Regretfully, during leadership elections
where there is no obvious frontrunner, candidates may have to deal with
complete nonentities. Remember, the addition of a raised eyebrow or
hollow laugh can be used to remind viewers that the interviewee is a
rank no-hoper.

Under no circumstances include contributors who
are flat-voiced, dull or monotone, or appear only in black and white
(cf television, not Kelly-vision).

Adrian Monck is head of the department of journalism at City University, London

The candidates


Last time around, ITV News took an ankle-nipping news terrier from
Auntie, gave him a makeover, and out came a press pack rottweiler who
could snap a politician’s thigh bone in two and suck out the marrow.

So what do they do this time? The usual terms apply.

They want
a big beast, a heavyweight, a big hitter – a DNA cocktail of
hippopotamus, Jabba the Hutt, and Kendo Nagasaki. Or Sky’s Adam Boulton.

what if they decide not to appoint a 30-stone beast with a devastating
forearm smash? Without decrying the legion of svelte male reporters who
could fill the job with ease, shouldn’t they choose – gasp! – a
woman? Of course they bloody should.

Martha Kearney

She was robbed, cry fans. Anyone who can combine Woman’s Hour with
Newsnight isn’t exactly short on range or brains. If they could get
her, easily the prime choice. But would she leave an ungrateful

It’s still a big place with plenty of output to work across, and
plenty of interesting things to do. Would securing Kearney’s services
blow a giant raspberry at the BBC? But you wouldn’t let ridiculous
stuff like that influence a decision…

Daisy Sampson

Could she hold centre stage? As a former Lib Dem press person, she
knows life on the margins of politics, and with Andrew Neil on the
Daily Politics, she’s relived the experience on a TV programme. Sampson
must have something because she’s fallen into political broadcasting’s
abyss with Rod Liddle and somehow crawled out. And telly does love a

Emma Hurd

She’s done Washington and the West Bank – could Westminster be next?
It does begin with ‘W’ but that isn’t really a good reason. Starred in
Sky’s election coverage, but based in Israel, she doesn’t really know
the Millbank beat. Still, you don’t need contacts to be ITV political
editor – the job is its own advertisement. What you do need are freshly
sharpened elbows and an insatiable appetite for being on telly. Hurd
has both. Years of experience clocking up road miles for Sky mean she
can burn airtime, but is she a star? Going terrestrial might just
decide the issue.

Sarah Smith

Think outside the box. The daughter of former Labour leader John
Smith, this woman is a hack’s hack. Smith knows her politics, without
the Asperger’s-like fascination for Westminster detail that afflicts
some Millbank mike-wielders. She can smoke, she can drink and she can
do telly. Doubtless a contender for Elinor Goodman’s job at Channel 4
News, ITV could do the dirty on its Gray’s Inn Road chums and
fast-track her to the big time. A surprise hit if she chooses to

Anne McElvoy

Nothing communicates better on television than intelligence, and
McElvoy has that in spades. If she could bring the tough, natural
approach she shows in ministerial encounters to the small screen, ITV
News would have a winner on its hands. Plus the Evening Standard’s
associate editor could stroll to work in minutes. But whenever news
executives mull bringing print people into TV news, the name Peter Jay
suddenly ends a beautiful dream.