David Boulton reflects on the challenges of managing the ‘World In Action’ team

You’ve talked a little bit about the eclectic bunch of people who worked on World in Action. What was it like being editor of that programme and having to deal with these very clever but also people who could be very awkward, shall we say, to work with?

Yes, you’ve put it very well. They were very clever, very awkward, very eclectic, didn’t respond particularly to leadership. As far as they were concerned (as far as we were all concerned really) we were a collective. I didn’t have the man-management, personal management skills that I necessarily had to develop a little later when I was appointed head of current affairs and all the rest of it. And I didn’t handle some of the spiky, difficult situations within World in Action as well as I believe I would have done a little later. In particular, when I was appointed I was a very popular appointee because I was very much one of the boys. I was seen as somebody who was radical in politics, social justice issues and therefore would defend World in Action‘s track record in those things very strongly. Because I was popular in that way I feared I could easily be taken advantage of and I tended to be more prescriptive in the way that I wanted films made. Since I wanted really to make every film myself, I tended to be more prescriptive initially than I should have been in that I should have allowed for people to really do things their own way, which often turned out to be better ways than I wanted to do it. So I did come to be seen as somebody who was too controlling and after 4 years of it, it seemed a jolly good idea to move on and do something else. By that time, the drama documentary strand, which I had helped to develop within World in Action was becoming the kind of thing that everybody was, the buzz genre, the new genre. And with all the arguments about whether it was a proper form of journalism or whether it was a proper form of dramatism and I enjoyed that controversy and I enjoyed developing that. I also went back to World in Action, I mean while making the drama documentaries there were World in Actions that I still wanted to make and Ray Fitzwater had taken over as Editor of World in Action and I went back and still made the occasional World in Action so that worked out well. And then, as I say, when Mike Scott became Programme Controller he appointed me as head of current affairs so I found myself back in control of World in Action – a little wiser than I had been a few years earlier.

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