June Sarpong, the television presenter, is Newsnight editor Ian Katz's new recruit for the BBC's flagship current affairs programme
While a candidate is yet to be announced to replace Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight following his resignation last month, Mandrake can disclose that Ian Katz’s latest recruit to the BBC’s flagship current affairs show is June Sarpong.
“I’m going to be doing some stuff for Newsnight,” June tells me at the Ubuntu Education Fund’s 15 Year Anniversary Gala dinner at the Roundhouse, Camden. “I’m not replacing Jeremy Paxman before the rumours start. I’m doing specials for them.”
The 36-year-old former T4 presenter has moved back to Britain from America ahead of the role. “I got back to London six weeks ago,” she explains. “I’ve gone from Sunday morning television to Newsnight, but you know we’ve all got to grow up, it’s all highbrow now.”
June’s appointment comes after a string of redundancies since Katz started in his role as editor of the show last year. The former deputy editor of The Guardian has been accused of putting entertainment before expertise after he let go of the show’s science editor Susan Watts and abolished the post. Other staff to leave the show included presenter Gavin Esler and foreign reporter Tim Whewell.
June - who once dated the Labour MP David Lammy, a former Minister of State of Innovation, Universities and Skills - has experience in current affairs.
In 2005 she shadowed Tony Blair for two days ahead of a T4 special interview in which she challenged him on the war in Iraq.
However, not everyone was impressed by her efforts. In 2012 The Guardian ran a piece — while Katz was deputy editor — questioning whether the interview with Tony Blair was “any good”. The article went on to point out June was yet to win a current affairs role. “Let’s put it this way: she still hasn’t had a job offer from Newsnight,” it read.
Happily, it seems that Katz became rather taken with this latter idea.