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Read this: John Witherow, Editor of The Times

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John Witherow, Editor of The Times…

Hello, if you really want to know how much power are newspapers.

Have you need to go to the top and on today's Media show where were the man who's been at the heart of Fleet Street for decades John witherow is one of the longest serving national newspaper editors first at the Sunday Times and now the times under him those papers of exposed cash for honours and peerages corruption Oxfam abuse in Rotherham and much more so at a time when the prime minister is fighting for his political life after a series of scoops that could still bring him down does the editor of The Times make it all and how does he explain the relationship between press and the people in power and with first and you radio station times radio and now an upcoming TV station is the organisation he leads set on taking down the BBC John with the Welcome to the media show for the first time and I'd like to get a sense from you as we start about your Media habits.

What do you listen to in the morning? I am managing you were once fully here today programme person but now you.

Times radio listen to the radio and what about TV your news channel of choice generally BBC Brian Batman ITN as well, I read the rest digitally let's start let's turn to how you ended up as one of the most senior figures in Fleet Street you were born in South Africa and moved to the UK as a child.

What was it that drove? You become a journalist in the first place when I was 19.

I went to what was then south west Africa to work as a volunteer teacher.

I was meant to go up to the border with November land and Angola that the authorities and was South Africa they Govern South Africa is now Namibia and so I couldn't do that.

Up and teach there so I set up a library in winter with capital and what I was there one of the people.

I was working with that expelled by the South Africans and he was a stringer for the BBC world service and BBC Africa service, so he just found it to me and you nothing about journalism.

The only thing I knew my father told me that dog bites man is not a story man bites.

Dog is a story and I thought I had to learn very fast doing broadcast.

I think I was terrible I should they were really nice of the world service and then carriage me and side is a series of interviews and told them what was going on and it was really up sometime because I say it was it was apartheid on steroids it had a large off a corner and German population who are very hard line, and it was it was a little time in and the people as working with three of them.

Got expelled to them were put under arrest in South Africa so he was seen as a kind of hotbed of anti-apartheid, but it was a fast learning curve.

Already got the Bug Wars is foreign news really where your heart lies.

It was then by the way I was a terrible reporter.

What made you are terrible?

I tried I tried to cover the walls in a really kind of objective way the Falklands Max Hastings is there any understood know you had to do it in a way that the British one of the read about it and I was replying l reuters rules to that.

We had to cover it earlier though, which was Max Hastings outgunned all of us then so was it was a fantastic experience but then I did not best rated, but I wasn't a natural or report report by Anthony Lloyd him.

We have no more Marie Colvin you have posted that killed the cat ago this month this month so yeah, but I like for a news because I did start at the writer's and work in Madrid for about a year but then at once I was on the phone desk at the Sunday Times for quite a while, but then I moved onto home news so all NewsNow interest me but phone is obviously very important.

90-95 then the time since 2013 how would you describe your editorship style pretty Direct I hope I hope that's I give clear Direction I thought it was very important at the times that we had to take out much more constructive attitude towards news one thing I've seen for years is that you read the media and newspapers in particular and they put a negative image of what's going on in the world so that people and I think that's one of the reasons.

I trust people look at their own lives and see generally things are getting better and I mean very general it's generalisation things are getting better, but that's not what they say in the media where everything looks like it's going to Hell in a handcart and I think it's important that the Times starts doing more constructive news so jealous a lot and have a story that's 80% positive saying 20% negative and then.

Reaction of a journalist probably including me in at Wednesday as you go for the negative because it gives you a better headline.

Story is a positive and we wanted turn that round and making news reflect the world more accurately because the world is getting better people living longer diseases on in Retreat violence is down over the Decades but people don't realise that you read the newspapers you think everything is getting worse.

It's not only want to change that direction of how far you would push your Janice to bring in stories with people have told me that you will buy fair trade of you that I've heard that I don't believe it.

They shouldn't be I mean I don't think I'm a faithful person at all, but I'm I believe in being direct with people is it your way of ensuring that people that you're jealous bringing scoops that you need to put pressure on them? Yeah, I think I think everybody needs that I think you know scoops exclusives Central

All publications that without them you're just reporting the mass out there and we have to differentiate herself and what we see on digital is that when you have exclusive people really engaged much more and the papers today and we had a string of really great exclusives over the years and that's what people remember.

They don't remember the day today run-of-the-mill stuff.

They are the times of the covers something like covid-19 response.

I think we have done but you need to lift yourself another run-of-the-mill the time to just one scoop of the decade at the British journalism awards for your coverage revealing Oxfam sex worker scandal.

Just reminds us that was and how it came about that was brilliant reporting by Shawn and Neil independently discovered this that's Oxfam had been employed people who are abusing the aid workers on a scale it was such a high.

And this was going on not just that it seems that was going right across the age world and so is a consequence of Sound came on the hue scrutiny the government withdrew funding they lost a lot of country funding Oxfam and I've had severely reform themselves, but it's a subject that I was going to go away cos you're putting his privileged people amongst really deprived people and occasions.

They are expecting them interested now.

What is your relationship with Boris Johnson I noticed that you had him on times radio the first interview with the prime minister that morning contact with him.

I don't think he's a particular admirer of the time.

So we've been pretty critical.

I think Boris was a great campaigner and not sure he's a great governor.

And you see what's happening now.

There is evidence of the chaos of Downing Street which is trying to sort out.

He is of course in considerable personal danger of remaining prime minister and we'll have to see how that is out in the next few months ago, when did you last visit, Downing Street

Not very often, maybe come back.

Speak to to him another ministers on the phone and how often would someone would you be speaking to the prime minister on the phone not very often it depends what comes up sometimes.

She's complaining at the time.

He wants us to tell us what's going on about speaking to the prime minister other Politician's is not really what they tell you cos he discovered against tell the public exactly the same on the BBC the next day.

It's really what's on their mind their preoccupation and you learn from what they at the 7th.

They raise.

What's really concerning them that that's quite valuable the actual information you get from them isn't what does he want to complain about well pharmacy.

We saying he was going to get rid of his dog which I think might have been planted by Dominic Cummings hu100 to get rid of the dog and upset the prime minister and carry.

To complain about that story of all things it's the prime minister.

Does it impact what you do and do you speak to him more than the prime minister's example the cash for honours story with allegations of donors to political parties being rewarded with peerages and there been many scoops sense.

Why didn't you break partygate stories with Cameron and greensill was a very good story.

It's very few parties going on the refuge Ennis new Bassett you had any sense because on Saturday June 20th 2020 the Times probably Story by Steven Swinford to step disclosure and Oliver Wright the policy editor.

And it said Boris Johnson celebrated his 56th birthday yesterday with a small gathering in the cabinet room Rishi Sunak the Chancellor and a group of eight sign him Happy Birthday before they talked into a Union Jack cake so back then you spell spotty spotty about parties at Downing Street before the mirror and I to be published estimates that it was clashing with that time exactly with the instructions again and done.

I think that's what happened.

That's why reading spotted and when you saw the video when you saw it and I was asked people how they feel when someone else gets asleep.

How does it take for the prime minister weather terminal is obviously still?

Yeah, do you think he will be be Prime Minister by the end of the year? It's really hard to predict that I mean he is a survivor.

I haven't no David Cameron has a bet on a expensive dinner that will survive the year so the former prime minister things that and it's really hard to predict the stage how how the police enquiry will go and what the Sue grey report will actually saying and how the party Fields I mean, I think he's greatest advantage.

They can't agree on who will succeed him.

So any is a fighter you give up easily if you wanted to could you bring Boris Johnson down only through a story that was shocking and that people thought was absolutely unacceptable you couldn't do it.

I mean if we would campaign in that he should go.

I don't think that would make any difference for example.

It's the battle stories that change public opinion and the Tory Party views of being done more subtle than that if you decided that you took for example if you back Rishi Sunak tomorrow and you did it suddenly.

So you just started writing articles that painted in a positive light.

Do you think that would swear it and would you do that?

No, not the stage, but there could be a stage when you might switch movie, what would it take to see interesting interesting?

Do you think I mean? It's interesting to think papers can do that can bring people round because it used to be the case that you that was an understanding that but that newspapers could bring down politicians as I say Stories can I don't like a paper like the time because we don't campaign over that's our role against the politician you might find that people like the male or the sun can be much more vehement in vitriolic against a leader than we can I think I read it's like that mean.

They want us to present the news for them to make up their minds not to tell them what to think press Secretary and she resigned after elite video showing her being asked about an hour infamous cheese and wine events during lockdown what conversations were you having with him at the time? I was not uncomfortable for you.

That he was so person involved in the story was very upsetting for him because of what happened to her and she was clearly very upset with the strength of James is not just for a Lego sets to other sources has amazing contacts in government and you can tell readers what he thinks going on the general drift of the party and what Minister's say they talk to him extensively off the record is closely linked to Rishi Sunak so he has a real inside and I think it's important that the papers can give readers a sense of what's happening to somebody who is incredibly well connected think that the story partygate what happened to his wife has it changed his attitude to the government and the way you write about them.

With torch on the media show a lot before about the revolving door between the Press And politicians in fact the prime minister's new director of communications 32 Harry who also worked at the BBC also work for between 2012 and 2015 for News UK is there something on democratic or uncomfortably cosy anyway about the relationship between the Press And politicians.

No, I mean the spans a constant source of their source of information to John Lewis which is valuable because Minister's want to stay clear of things would like Spanish to get the message out and a director of communications of here.

She is good is also valuable.

I don't think it's corrupting anyway or distorting.

I mean obviously they're pushing their message.

It is the job of journalist to discern try and find the path through it to get to the truth, but generally that pretty valuable.

I say that when a journalist director of communications comes to work for a newspaper presumably the newspaper is.

Buying something from them that expertise is it more than that the access to Power by transient as people move on it's just if you have them as a journalist you're having them for their skills as it's not necessary for contacts that could disappear quite soon as that something different I suppose.

Obviously, I understand everyone would understand that we need everyone needs sources at the heart of governments and that's what you're talking about how much of a mouthpiece are you willing to be you? Would you be happy for some one of your jealous to be printing verbatim? What someone like Dominic Cummings was telling them well as everybody if you were going good information of Dominic Cummings really.

What was going inside number 10 that's available and you would report it as it will have a certain.

It would have Cummings influence on it.

Obviously if it's telling you what was happening.

That's that's very useful and allow readers to balanced against other things and you go to other sources you say no that's not true.

That's not how it is.

It's different so you do it in the road part of the problems when he was at the heart of Danny Street you wasn't there so being quoted when he was he wasn't he was providing information now.

the influence over the British media and culture secretary Nadine dorries is changing existing legislation to allow your boss Rupert Murdoch interview in the times and the Sunday Times financial interests to do so can you just explain why it wouldn't be explained the Undertaker when he bought the titles in 1981 he gave undertakings of the two titles would remain separate because there was a really interesting without digital media that we need a plurality of opinions and they and they want the times and the Sunday Times to merge so that's what existed for 40 years but the normally was this is a 20th century decision that doesn't apply to a digital age the 21st century and the fact that the government could have some say on a free press is an anomaly and I think the Department of Culture media and sport accepted that that we shouldn't be involved that you look after your

Is this you have a level playing field with the other publishers CO2 treated the same and so they were agreed to these undertakings to be removed from their influence the undertaker's remain there being put into our employment contracts and we're going to continue to have independent directors.

So it's exactly the same setup that with employment law governing it rather than the government will remain separate separate in in terms of editors in key areas that we've already started merging parts of it because a lot of readers Now read a 7 days and I'm trying to do that to avoid duplication and that we coordinates on things so we don't repeat stories cover the same ground, so that's just sensible.

That's hilarious like sport and features where we agree on things that will be people who say Nadine dorries is wrong murder already medals in our democracy and that this decision could give him more power to do so what do you say?

It's not true in my you need to remember that with the Wapping Revolution essentially saved the national press that that enable the creation of the Independent of the titles to how much more successful is enabled the Sunday Times to become multi-section and all newspapers to flourish, so there was a very positive thing the boot on a throat so that time and end and that got rid of the others followed suit and of the fact is he doesn't interfere she doesn't feel the Times all the Sunday Times ever since I've been on the phone and talk to you about stories there in the papers know what's going on and then what's happening to the government and generally Sainsbury doesn't fit I give you one good example that one of the most important decisions that this country is taken the century was brexit now river murder Was Pro brexit.

The sun was but the times was pro remain skeptically promain but it argues that it was better to remain within the European Union for Economic reasons and it was better to be in by the 10th that outside you get onto the phone to you about that accept as most of our readers of pro remain most of the senior staff remain and we need to reflect what we think is right.

Do you tailor a talk to you Taylor stories to his taste? Is there any pressure on that front even if it's not coming from him to feel that you want the police does that the never and what's your personal relationship with Rupert Murdoch like what is an individual whose mixture of a businessman, and there's a strong journal traits.

I mean is very curious about things and his father was an editor and a find gelatin in the Gallipoli Campaign and he's just curious.

He asked questions are jealous with huskies.

Politics business, he's a bit of a complex one of the few things I can do adequately it said it and I think he knows that that I've been lucky that I've had the Sunday Times and then the Times both of financially successful and the time is now and it's it gives you a normal strength of the paper is successful and takes the pressure off and management no matter what positive and helping you investing in journalism investing in digital this when I see him.

I'm always he's characterised.

I suppose as an outsider and I want to even though you're an essential complete the establishment big.

Are you even play Taylor Swift the prime minister pass you like Murdoch see yourself instead of an outsider.

I think I should be outside us.

We shouldn't be part of the establishment.

We should always be scrutinising and being critical when we think it's right is supported if they do the right things but generally.

Critics that's the right thing OK well.

Let's think now about some of the big debates that are threatening to fragment the establishment in a scentsy of the time to take quite a campaign in Star gender for example particular Janice Turner but also in general in a news coverage line has always been we are sympathetic.

Obviously to trans people who are transitioning and then with so we should be what is she what she's done has taken on the people who self declare themselves in many cases as women and in Genesis view intruder on on women's rights.

See you later.

They appear in the public lavatory changing rooms in sports and this isn't right and I better on then.

I think it's the right approach, but you know people get very very angry about it is quite controversial fuse.

I don't know if it's your son certainly when people hear this there will be complaints that you've said that do you get a lot of complaints from readers and you have a lot of hostility but we think it's the right thing I think the vast majority of our readers agree with that point of view.

We are clearly the arguments over children believed in a big part of that but I'd up in that in your love.

You do the culture wars exist up going on that attitudes are changing a young man in his 20s who doesn't believe in a lot of these cultural.

Why don't you go out there? And I can't I can't I be cancelled.

It's so intolerant and that's one of the problems that we face now that we would as a newspaper as a title we would encourage.

Grounds and this has become an extremely vitriolic debate which is very welcome.

I think you meant something cancelled cancel culture, what's your take on that because I don't take an example for example like the Jimmy Carr story when that story is reported in the times, as it is it was on the BBC does A Little Party you think we are contributing to potentially cancelling someone would you mind at all a little bit but I think you just report this tourism that people make up the road mind how you see the times as role and navigating all of this navigating the culture Wars are you fighting cultural Zoe just reporting on them.

We report you remember when we comment or I'll call in this comment.

They say positions within our reporting.

We should be as objective as possible when it comes to believe that broadly you you reflect a broad spectrum.

Because you are under fire I suppose for having Janice Turner very high profile at the paper and young people complain and say you know there's not enough of the other side.

We do we do represent the side.

Maybe not as much as Janis or is prominently but she's taking on taking on the Middletons and as I say I'm reading support that we've attracted women leaders from other patients because of Genesis stance the prime minister at the time in the Conservatives for Shannon the BBC did you enjoy that factory we consulted on who appears that the presenters.

Have you got so much to do they get on with it and do a good job a lot of journalists for the pair.

We think it's a platform for them for them.

I mean Tom Whipple is one example.

I found set it to him through the pandemic has been a real star on times radio and readers and listeners like to hear the listers like to hear the people have been reading actually talking because he gives greater depth to it and give personality to the person so it's about positive aspect of the subgenus and we do know and you're right.

We're a multimedia platform.

You know we do podcast we do video we do the app with the digital we're going to do some TV work.

So newspapers fundamentally changing to be need to bring in subscribers to the newspaper has that worked as much as we can judge.

I mean x radio has I think about 500000 plus listeners a week.

And what I hear and ghostly it's very hard to actually get the hard evidence but then exactly I talk to readers who left the X radio and they like it and it reaffirms that they continue to subscribe lowest earners the key thing is also is liver period of time they listen to times John Lewis talking think that's pretty good sensible stuff.

We hoping intelligence and younger audience which is good use of it anyway, but you know do you have a sense of how many listeners are now paid subscribers of the times of that 500000? No, I don't think we got this figures coming out this year at some point.

We don't know when quite yet, but we don't you might is Talk TV and the News

Watching from this building however, will you be in that will Tom Newton Dunn is one of the presenters asked for times journalist to periodically appear when it's relevant when he's doing you so that will do that when when necessary I mean, will you be on it? I think you know in the end.

We got to do is to produce a newspaper a website and there is all the things we got a balance the demands that against appearing on TV and that's going to be one of the challenges journalist do all these things multitask across the interesting and who will be on Piers Morgan already is it true signed up Gemma Jeremy Kyle who else will be on it? What can you tell us about? All I know is about Tom Newton Dunn and a what will be do you think do you know the political stance and tone? They will it be close to the sun?

Radio or David aaronovitch column in the times that is very similar to he's been on times radio commentator which is excellent and he continues like that a good reflection.

I think I'm on the titles drawn from that I guess because it was such a shake it start if they got any sense start much more professional than GB news, but not enormous audience for you know seeing and I woke bashing as GB news with the builders and if I didn't want it to be advertised as when it came to be associated with it's too closely linked to the culture Wars how far along my route.

Do you think talk to you by regard?

Dunnes doing and I can't see that being very different from x radio, but that's all I know broadly with times radio and Talk TV is there an ambition to take the BBC down a little no, we just think it's another source and people can switch back and forth from the BBC 2 x radio.

It's an additional.

It's very political which which some listers like but not always didn't like it will stay with Radio 4 or wherever what do you mean when a lot of the discussions are about politics often amusingly that I'm done enough in a fun way, but a lot of it is about politics and use non-stop.

Where's the BBC Radio 4 for example as a whole variety of content who say newspapers including the Times just passed the BBC a lot.

Would you agree with what is it about BBC bashing with the BBC we are Critical of it over some counts I mean in the future the BBC is legitimate.

Obviously can it survive as as a fully funded site with the licence fee was it going to have to go to something different play subscriptions for subscriptions are changing the world of viewing and and if he does go down that if the government decide to go down that route.

Will it give it sufficient funds and if not they may need another form of funding in addition, but in most young people do not listen or watch the BBC content is very very tough to force them to pay a charge for something.

They don't they don't use so that's one of the great challenges for the government future governments on the funding of it, but I would love the BBC to survive and to flourish it probably be a narrower and narrower broadcaster and just do things better.

What would you take out? What do you think? I don't think you need all these TV TV channels frankly I would concentrate on core products and call radio products spoken to a lot of people about you and about time.

They had sent of you and wondering if you're a newspaper man At Heart love newspapers, UK newspapers.

You know how much TV and it will be radioprotection Saturday not necessarily digital guy is that how you would describe yourself not me more I mean I was that but we have to go digital now and we are focused on digital and normal 610 and we debated we discuss it all the time and sometimes the print gets put the back and I'll balance going into the future is not to diminished while enhancing digital does Prince going to be around for a very long time.

I'm sure in bed and does evil Eye print.

I mean even young people like Prince so it's not exclusively and older and older generation.

You buy the printed newspaper these days, how many people by the time will the management don't publish the figures anymore we have when the digital side of it which is growing with in terms of numbers.

We have almost three-quarters of million readers now which is probably more than we've ever had in our history and a large tank then.

What's the digital more than 400000 a digital and over time we want to greatly increase the number of those and as that happens print will gradually go down that we want printers survive because printers in the full marketing to print product.

There is red on average by 3 people and people see it and enhances the that the brand the title and if you think the independent as a print product disappeared.

Only went online.

I think it was diminished by that because you just don't see it's presents anymore.

So I want to stay around as long as possible for sales you have drop.

Over that time how long do you really believe that the physical edition of The Times will continue that it can continue for the foreseeable future with me.

Many years hard to tell depends, how well digital does I think for a group of leaders.

Yes, they want they want printing and probably somebody kids that will continue in smaller numbers that might be disputed less widely, but they want to print product in the same way books of soulflower Stephen digital books.

Can I ask you something that many of our audiences make a lot about which is it Waitrose has recently announced that they are going to dump their offer which effectively met you can get the papers for free if you want to suck them out of money and understood was very good for your circulation.

What does it mean? What will it do for circulation prince until next month?

The Habit the bill keep buying it Franklin that's what I hope.

You'll have some impact expect but equally one hope so if they don't get the paper.

They will get the digital offering so we like to carry on but it's Waitrose season we are reaching the end of my time Saturday I've just got a few questions.

I'd love to ask you and I wonder that you talk to talk about Marie Colvin earlier.

Get wonderful Sunday Times foreign reporter who was Assad in Syria

I just wonder I was going to ask you in after all this time as an editor.

What keeps you awake at night and I just wondered whether think about Marie dolls that look sad about what happened and we really worry about a foreign Correspondents in war zones.

I mean Anthony Lloyd was kidnapped in Syria is one of the worst days of my life and he amazing managed to escape got shot in the process that got away and the dangers for foreign Correspondents now incredible the special across the middle east where they actually taken captive then would have been traded.

I didn't answer it would have been traded and quite possibly excuse it so it was a shocking what's happening and it already hold of Northern Africa is almost impossible because of Islamic state expanding and the dangers are incredible so people are getting we know very little really what's happening in Syria news reporters.

I'm going in so terrible things may be happening and

Unreported because of the hostility where is before it would help foreign Correspondents they would look after them and that's disappeared.

Do you worry about the pressure that you put on I wonder whether you've had to dial it down as it becomes more the risks.

They are by nature often risk-takers and in case he was taking risks the foreign editor try to get her out, but marine was an extraordinary person and just wanted to report it and there's no doubt she was deliberately targeting by SS people and killed still 10 years on reflecto Matt and worry about it with whether there was anything more.

You could have done strontium atom detail looking into what happened.

I don't think cos cos she was our own person and determined to do what she wants to do.

I don't know we can stop her with her trying to get her out and she wouldn't.

Formidable and had taken risks I mean she lost an eye and Sri Lanka but she was extremely break person of the times and the Sunday Times for 18 years before that you've just turned 70 Happy Birthday are you planning to retire anytime soon is incredibly privileged job in everyday is interesting and different and I come in with a spring in my step thinking what's gonna happen today and how do we report it would be lucky to do this job.

How many minutes do you think you'll see when you're to Fleet Street what do you think your Legacy will be I hope that we made the Times and Sunday Times successful financially stable the good journalist incredibly talented tennis on these titles and that they will survive for another 200 + years.

That's that's the key objectives.

We are just.

It was of these titles and we have to submit them to be successful for the future of the time.

Thank you so much for joining us on the media today.

Thank you very much.

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