UPDATED: The power of cake – Bake Off doubles our viewing figures, says C4 News’ Alex Thomson


By Lizzy McEllan and Tania Jacquier

A TOP television reporter has admitted he doesn’t watch TV news despite working in the industry for 25 years.

Channel 4 News’ chief correspondent Alex Thomson said he prefers to watch the news online. He said shorter, internet videos are the way forward, but admitted he “doesn’t have a clue” how to edit for Facebook.

Speaking at Leeds Trinity Journalism week, Alex said: “The pattern of families gathering around the television is falling apart.

“Around 800,000 people watch the programme but millions of people watch the shorter online stories. My lovingly crafted reports get cut down to two minutes – my voice and piece to camera gets cut. I wouldn’t have a clue how to cut it down.”

He told the audience that Channel 4 News is a monolithic exercise in commercial suicide – normally the programme only gets between 800,000 and a million viewers every night, putting off advertising.

However the Great British Bake Off pushed it up to 1.6 million – but only on a Tuesday night.

Alex said the online team at Channel 4 has grown from two to 16 people and is an incredible platform for young journalists.

He said: “I wouldn’t say social media is the future – that’s too simplistic. The future will be an amalgam – a fudge – like Brexit.”

The BAFTA award-winning journalist said TV news still has a place in a world of “fake news.” Alex called the internet a “jungle” and “soft play area for conspiracy theorists.”

He said: “TV news gives someone a rough draft of what’s happening.”


Finishing with a question and answer session, he addressed a number of topics.

As Channel 4’s longest serving onscreen reporter, Alex has covered everything from major wars and conflicts to the financial collapse of Scottish football giants Rangers.

He says it was a combination of things which have led to his success as a journalist – he claims his degree taught him nothing about journalism, but hitch hiking, getting in a car with a stranger and chatting about life, “taught him loads”.

The ability to be interested in people, and the love of telling stories, for him is the key.

Persistence, ingenuity, going off-piste to get a story – all are great ways to get into journalism, and sometimes the ‘traditional’ routes aren’t enough, he said.

He also said that anger is an underrated virtue. He said: “Anger is really good motivation to get into journalism. Journalism should and could make a difference. Anger makes you want to make a difference, to make a change.”





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