Ian Katz and the great Clark County stunt
BBC’s Newsnight has been through seven turbulent months, taking the Jimmy Saville and Lord McAlpine fiascoes, and tonight’s apology for a “misleading and unfair” item about the Help for Heroes charity. What the programme manifestly needs now is an editor with good judgement. They got Ian Katz, deputy editor of The Guardian.
His was the imaginative mind behind the great Guardian Clark County stunt, which came to him in a north London pub. In 2004, during the US Presidential contest between George Bush and John Kerry, the Guardian launched a project to ‘pair’ readers with undecided voters in Clark County, Ohio, in the hope of persuading them not to vote for Bush. The response was massive: on day one, 4,000 people visited the Guardian website wanting to be paired; within days, there were 14,000. The publicity it generated was global. The outcome was not so good. In 2000, the Democrat, Al Gore, narrowly won Clark County. In 2004, it swung to George Bush.
Katz’s appointment set off some ill-informed Twitter commentary about left wing bias at the BBC. Not all Guardian executives are left wing. The operative question is not Ian Katz’s politics. How steady is his judgement?
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