Q&A with Times Radio

Last Friday, we had the pleasure of hosting a Q&A with our sponsors at Times Radio. Tim Levell, who is currently serving as its programme director, and John Witherow, who served as Editor-in-Chief of The Times until last year. The talk gave Oxford Media Society members and Oxford students an opportunity to converse with two figures who have been crucial to the development of British journalism in the past decade. They discussed their careers, as well as how the idea for Times Radio was conceived in 2020, and their opinions on the future of media. Both Tim and John emphasised the increasing importance of creating a healthy ecosystem for journalistic media, encompassing print, audio, and video formats.

Especially interesting was their discussions on the nature of journalistic radio and what appeals to people. There is a tendency to see radio through two extremes, with phone-in callers shouting about political issues on the one hand, and experts and journalists having informed conversations on the other. Tim explained that the vision at Times Radio is to be able to broadcast informative and civil debates about current issues, but also that there always needs to be a balance between engaging the audience whilst simultaneously maintaining journalistic civility and integrity. Indeed, the tension (and overlap) between these two goals has always been a challenge for any journalistic media project.

Finally, both Tim and John left our audience and all those aspiring to be journalists with some important advice. John emphasised the importance of persistence (he had repeatedly emailed The Times until they agreed to hire him) and attention to detail. Meanwhile, Tim related a story of when he accidentally took the BBC’s local radio programme off the air, advising that it is fine to make a mistake, as long as you do not repeat it.