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Rachel Johnson lifts the lid on Newsnight

23 June 2015

2:28 PM

23 June 2015

2:28 PM

Rachel Johnson has never been shy of using her Notting Hill neighbours as a source of ‘inspiration’ for her series of chick-lit Notting Hell books. Her latest book Fresh Hell is no exception. It follows a character rallying against a major basement conversion in a storyline not dissimilar to Johnson’s own efforts to oppose her neighbour’s plans for such underground developments.

However, another plotline in the book has caught Mr S’s eye. The novel follows Notting Hill journalist Mimi going on Newsnight – the current affairs programme which Johnson has appeared on in the past – to name and shame her basement digging neighbour. In the book, Newsnight is edited by a man called Josh Kurtz, whose name bears some resemblance to Ian Katz, the show’s current editor:

‘It is my debut scoop. And not a bad one, though I say so myself. Even Josh Kurtz, who must be super-busy, found time to text me:

‘Proper investigative journalism, so great for the prog. Well done, Kurtz xxx.’

The teenager producer is continuing to brief me.

‘You drop the two names – boom, boom,’ he says, as if the names were hitting the floor, ‘and we’ll flash up on the screens behind those documents your daughter screen-shotted via the ImagetoText app and emailed. The names will be highlighted, for effect, OK?’

A producer on the show then warns Mimi about the threat the programme faces following the Lord McAlpine scandal, which saw the Beeb falsely claim the Tory peer was a paedophile:

‘So I just need to know. Are. You. Sure?’ the teenager is saying. ‘The last thing Newsnight needs is another, you know, libellous misidentification catastrophe, like that time we said Lord McAlpine was a paedophile, and he wasn’t, which was unfortunate.’

‘But he’s dead,’ I remind them.

‘Exactly our point,’ says the producer. ‘That’s what people blame us for. So we have to be super-careful, or’ – he does a slicing motion across his throat – ‘it’s curtains for the programme.’

However after Mimi messes up her appearance on the show, Kurtz is keen to avoid her in the green room after the event:

‘I gather my things, and switch my iPhone back on but, of course, there’s ‘no service’ still. Meredith has moved from the most important politicians in the room to Josh Kurtz.

I decide that I will beat a retreat, but I will go with dignity. So I go up to Meredith and Kurtz.

‘Well done,’ I manage to choke out, as I hear her saying to Josh, ‘I hope you’re coming to my annual Christmas party. Just a few locals, neighbours, friends and lots of champagne!’

So, what does Katz make of Johnson’s account of Newsnight following the Lord McAlpine scandal, with its ‘proper investigative journalism’, two-faced teenage producers and invites to W11 champagne-fuelled parties with the metropolitan elite?

Turns out, that according to Johnson, he hasn’t found much to object to so far:

Mr S will be keeping his eyes peeled for Katz in Notting Hill over summer party season.


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