Interviews – Media – Evan Davis

Evan Davis is the 37-year-old economics editor of Newsnight, the BBC television current affairs programme. We asked him about the challenge of presenting mainstream economics on television

How did you get your present job?
I knew I wanted to be an economics journalist when I left university and figured the best way to do this would be to acquire specialist knowledge.

I worked for the Institute for Fiscal Studies before doing a second degree, a Master of Public Administration at Harvard, and then spent some time as a research fellow at the London Business School. When an opportunity came up at the BBC I applied. They were looking for someone with a strong economic grounding and I fitted the criteria.

What does your job involve?
I am involved in the complete process from start to finish. I have to consider the most suitable economic topics to present on the programme, decide how we will present them – who we should speak to, where we should go, and what we should film – and then we have to get the footage and produce it. That includes sitting in an edit suite, writing the script and doing the research.

How do you make economics lively and interesting on television?
You shouldn’t try to cover too much ground. For example we don’t cover general statistics much. Another crucial aspect is keeping things clear, free of jargon and lucid. The audiences know they need to know this stuff, but they will be put off by anything that sounds too highbrow.

We also try to use gimmicks and devices to make it interesting. Recently for example we were looking at house prices, so we took Oakdale Road in Nottingham, and compared it with Oakdale Road in Streatham.

Humor goes a long way to making the audience take an interest, and you certainly have to look enthusiastic and keen on the subject yourself.

Where do you go from here?
I enjoy this job a lot and I can see myself staying here forever. Though if Peter Jay’s post as economics editor for the BBC came up, I would feel obliged to apply for the position.

How difficult is it to break into the media?
If you have the nouse and the talent it shouldn’t be that difficult. I recommend people to offer themselves for free for two months, and then prove themselves. If people are impressed you may well be taken on in some role. It is easiest if you can offer some specialist knowledge or background.

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