Memo to Radio 4’s Today programme: guest editors are supposed to edit, not appear in their own ads

For some years now the BBC’s flagship Radio 4 Today programme has wheeled in ‘guest editors’ between Christmas and New Year to liven things up a bit (and maybe give the real editors some time off). But this year’s batch seem more front of house than behind the scenes, using the programme to plug their favourite causes.

So far we’ve had UK Olympics supremo and former athlete Lord Coe (left) plugging next year’s London Games and also taking the opportunity to revisit moments from his sporting past and indulge himself by inviting Jose Mourinho to return to Chelsea FC. Today we had Sudanese telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim orchestrating an infomercial for African business (especially telecoms).

Next up is Tracy Emin to be followed by Victor Blank (who had to resign as chairman of Lloyds TSB over the disastrous merger with Halifax), former House of Common speaker Baroness Boothroyd and then, on New Year’s Eve, comedian Stewart Lee (who?).

Real editors, even former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, stay out of the spotlight, promoting their sometimes crazy and self-serving views by judicious selection and, er, editing. Isn’t this supposed to be the point of Today’s guest editors?

No doubt Ms Emin will take us on a guided tour of Spitalfields and Margate while the Baroness may share her recipe for Lancashire Hotpot. Victor Blank may discuss his charity cricket match (at which Sir Martin Sorrell regularly appears, maybe he could do it next year). No wonder the real journalists (Evan Davis seems to have drawn the short straw) sound embarrassed.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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