Belfast Telegraph

Jeremy Paxman’s grey matter

By Jane Graham

I think it was Alistair Campbell — or was it Malcolm Tucker? — who said that when a newsmaker moved from delivering news to starring in it, it was time to go. That famous, though blearily attributed, advice may be ringing in Jeremy Paxman's ears this week.

The story began on Tuesday at 10.30pm when Newsnight's loyal 800,000ish viewers tuned in for their regular fix of intelligent topical analysis, unaware of the hair-raising sight about to greet them.

Instead of the well brought up, clean-shaven Oxbridge chap who brought them the daily truth, they were confronted with a slovenly beardy fella who looked like he rarely bathed. Eyes widened, foreheads creased, gasps were swallowed... and Twitter exploded.

Writer Ian Rankin proclaimed the year to be 1973 and said he was ‘digging Paxman's Beard’. Danny Baker suggested the corporation was corrupt and should not have granted Paxman a beard. Fellow presenter Emily Maitlis announced her decision to grow a moustache. The furore sparked a lively response from old Greybeard himself, who claimed the anti-beard BBC only welcomed chin-hair on Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses, Demis Roussos or, intriguingly, alleged hate-criminal Abu Hamza.

For those claiming the excitement proved the media is as judgmental about men's appearance as women's however, there is little evidence yet of Paxman being accused of incompetence, reduced capability, debauchery or immorality. Or any risk of him being removed from his job and replaced by a younger, less bushily-visaged model. So let's not be silly about this.

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