I’ve just, for the first time, written a letter to a newspaper. This feels like a watershed – is it the onset of middle age? Will a blue rinse follow? It wasn’t in green ink and capitals, and I’m not particularly angry. Actually, I’m sad and the cause of that sadness is not lack of sunlight but the Today programme. I wonder if you feel the same? Here’s the letter:
“I have, this morning, after 20 years of listening to the Today programme from 0700 to 0745, retuned my alarm clock radio. I can no longer bear to spend the first 45 minutes of my day being worn down by a relentless stream of bad news.
I’m not, of course, hoping for random stories about puppies between serious items on the economy, foreign affairs etc. I can watch CBeebies for that. And there’s no doubt that there’s a lot of genuinely bad news around. What I seek, and what I think has been lost from Today in recent times, is editorial balance and an acknowledgement that, in spite of these tough times, things are happening in the world which are positive and inspiring.
I usually emerge from the 45 minute ‘morale bashing’ assuming that there was truly no event which was both newsworthy and cheerful. And then, yesterday, Thursday 7 March, World Book Day, I realised that focusing almost exclusively on grim news is an editorial choice. Here was a day on which, all around the country (and beyond), people were celebrating literature, praising the written word, inspiring children to pick up a book and, on Today, it was ignored.
Surely there was the potential for a package about some of the innovative and creative initiatives across the UK. It could have had a serious point about eg world literacy rates, if it were deemed otherwise too frivolous. So why was the decision taken to leave it out of the day’s running order? I’d like to bet that if research findings had been released linking juvenile crime with poor literacy, air time would have been available.
As a former employee and strong supporter of the BBC, I want to return to Today as my intellectual wake up call. I want to be informed and challenged but, sometimes, I also want to be allowed to smile”.