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Monday, February 24, 2014

On Piers Morgan

Four years ago, Piers Morgan was one of my role models. Piers Morgan is an Arsenal fan. I am an Arsenal fan. Piers Morgan is a journalist. I want to be a journalist. Now, I'm more cognisant of his flaws and whilst I won't go as far as calling him a role model, his career inspires me. I had to unfollow him off Twitter a couple of weeks ago as I had gotten bored of his criticism of Arsene Wenger, another of my inspirations. Piers is annoying. Even worse, if you happen to be on the other side. The reason I enjoyed following him in the first place was cos of the way he took down people like Alan Sugar, Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand.

I woke up at 6 this morning and as one is bound to do, hopped on Twitter to find a link to a New York Times article that confirmed something that had been in public circulation for a while: The ratings of his CNN show were suffering. In what was a slightly xenophobic article, the suggestion was that he had not done enough to assimilate to the American way of life (sports and gun culture particularly).  Later in the day, as everyone woke up and the news went viral, there was a great degree of schadenfreude from people and whilst I can understand it coming for one of the most annoying people on Twitter, there is a sense that people aren't familiar with his career path enough.

Piers Morgan is the Teflon don. There's a reason why he's one of the most relevant journalists in the world. He was trained in the Rupert Murdoch school of journalism and would go on to betray the man and take over the Editor's role at the Daily Mirror becoming the youngest man to edit a daily newspaper that side of the century. His time at the Mirror was laden with scandals; Allegations of insider share trading ( It was found that he had invested in a company tipped by the paper) which he would go on to be cleared of, a case where the paper inaccurately reported a football violence story that would result in some Arsenal fans losing their season tickets (Something he has apologised and proclaimed innocence of), phone hacking allegations which he still had to answer police questions on recently and what eventually led to his sack; Doctored photos. He bounced back from all this, assisted by his friend Simon Cowell who with America's Got Talent handed him an opportunity to reinvent himself. There's his fantastic ITV show, Piers Morgan's Life Stories where he interviews prominent personalities and his Twitter account where he can broadcast whatever he wants to almost 4 million followers. From the NYT report, it seems he'll get a spot more suited to his interviewing style where he conducts interviews with famous people as opposed to a daily talk show.

This is reminiscent somewhat of Sir David Frost's ascension to global prominence. Frost who passed away last year was the finest interviewer of a generation. Frost was derided by contemporaries for being an "awful plagiarist" and for not being "posh" and was at the low point of his career when he nabbed the exclusive with Richard Nixon where he made the ex American President wiggle and admit his role in the Watergate scandal for the first time on public record. Game, Set, Match. That interview according to the Sunday Times had "the largest audience for a political interview in television history". That was the jolt Frost's career needed and explains his place in broadcasting and journalism folklore.

There's no guarantee that their careers would toe the same path but I have no doubt that Piers Morgan is going to win, because Piers Morgan always wins. He's savvy enough and has the connections to secure the interviews we want to see. His brand of journalism is based on convictions and whilst he might not always be right (the Guns issue a case in hand depending on where you stand), it improves the esteem and trust his audience invest in him. No one's going to care if his show didn't have enough ratings if he gets to interview Bashir al Assad to sit down and talk to him in the next month.


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