Lindsey Hilsum is an international correspondent for Channel Four News. She covered the Libyan Revolution and has now published an account of that, Sandstorm, a superbly authoritative piece of journalism.
I wanted to ask her many things, but started with the question of whether broadcast journalists often – if ever – make good writers.
You’ll hear from this that I really enjoyed my encounter with Roger Highfield, a science journalist who was editor of New Scientist, a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and now works for the National Museum of Science and Industry. I hope the audience enjoyed it as much but there were moments when I was so engrossed that I almost forgot they were there.
Highfield is, essentially, a populariser of science. He has written books on the science of Harry Potter and of Christmas. His latest work addresses the question of how evolution might have favoured co operation and altruism, even self sacrifice. But we talked more widely about whether some scientists have been dishonest in the climate change debate and whether belief in a multiverse requires an act of faith now. It’s all below.
Justin Webb is now one of the presenting team for the Today Programme on BBC Radio Four.
He has written two books, most recently Notes on Them and Us, based on his time as a correspondent in the United States, making the case that the British don’t really understand modern American culture. He takes a pop at the notion of a special relationship between the two countries and when he explores differing attitudes to guns, drink, God and sex he does sometimes seem to be on the side of those who marvel at how odd the US is.
He joined me in conversation at the BBC in Belfast and we covered a wide range of issues, from one of his colleagues falling asleep on a bus and waking up in a garage, to the impossibility of regulating all broadcasting in the internet age.
He joined me in conversation in the BBC’s Studio 1 and we talked about the ‘accident’ of his getting into journalism. It’s extraordinary how many of the guests we had have made similar claims that they just fell into journalism with little intention of seeking a media career, but perhaps Naughton makes a better case for this description of his experience.
The argument of his book is that we can not really know yet where the internet is taking us and how much it will transform our lives, any more than the contemporaries of the inventor of the printing press could have anticipated outcomes like the Reformation.
Tom Rachman is author of The Imperfectionists, a novel which works like a series of interlocking short stories, exploring the evolution of the modern newspaper through the lives of journalists on an imaginary international newspaper based in Rome.
A core theme through the book is the contrast between our working lives and our private domestic selves.
I engaged in a conversation with Tom at the BBC’s Broadcasting House in Belfast on February 9.
We got Sir Christopher Meyer for a guest in the In Conversation series before an audience in Blackstaff House. As I say at the end of the interview, I should really have got stuck into him on his running of the Press Complaints Commission which is now in the dog house for lack of diligence in standing up to News International and others, but instead I followed the pattern of earlier sessions by taking a more personal line. Out of that approach came an extraordinary reflection on his father’s death, as a wartime fighter pilot just before Christopher was born.