I am old enough to remember John Sergeant as a formidable political editor who knew his subject intimately and shared his wisdom generously. Nick Hopkins of the Guardian thinks he will be remembered for performances only slightly less agile than his microphone handling on the day Lady Thatcher failed to win the first round of the 1990 Conservative leadership ballot.

 According to Nick JS is an icon who will attract young people to journalism like cheese draws mice to traps. He warns us to expect a "Sergeant effect." Likely? I make no prediction, but I do suggest that copying Mr Sergeant's fondness for newspapers (apparently he's been criticised for reading them on the set of Strictly Come Prancing) will help budding reporters a lot more than emulating his cha-cha-cha.   


Tim, this is going to sound either completely stupid or annoyingly pedantic, but do you mean SCD as in Strictly Come Dancing? haha.

Yes. Silly me. I did indeed mean SCD.  

For some reason, I think most of the voters dont know who he actually is and vote for him because of sympathy? 'Keep the old chap in the game'.

Hopefully not.

I don't think its sympathy. I think people keep him in because its funny. He tries to dance, he gets it ripped out of him and the judges get more annoyed each week that he stays. To the British public thats the equivelant of "don't push this big red shiny button". The judges want this to be a serious dance contest, we clearly don't, the BBC probably doesn't either. I don't watch the show but if hes in the final, i'll probably be watching, the ratings will be through the roof. Think of the judges reactions if he does win.

I interviewed Ol' Twinkletoes just as he was jumping ship from the BBC to ITN towards the end of his broadcasting career, and he passed on a very good piece of advice for young journalists that he'd learned at his first job on the Liverpool Post.

Some of the best reporters, he said, are those who look like they need a bit of help. If you look too officious and aloof, you're less likely to gain the confidence of the secretaries, office workers, taxi drivers etc who can so often give you the vital information for a story.

Hence he cultivated this image of a slightly shambolic figure in a rather grubby coat who didn't quite know what day it was. In fact he was one of the sharpest operators in the business. It was a combination that served him well even when he was reporting at the highest levels of government.

Ian Reeves is head of the Centre for Journalism

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