Farewell to Rory Cellan-Jones

Las Vegas, where else, in 2017

Rory Cellan-Jones leaves the BBC this week, and he will be sorely missed.

Not just by our viewers — for whom “That Rory” is one of the most trusted voices on the air — but also his colleagues who will be lining up to offer a heartfelt farewell to one of the kindest, most decent people in British journalism.

I was lucky enough to work closely with Rory over several years. You learn a lot about a person after 12+ hours traipsing through endless grotesquely-carpeted corridors in the convention centres of Las Vegas, or after a long day of broadcasting that begins with a 5am wake-up call from 5Live, and ends with the stresses of the News at Ten.

It will surely come as no surprise that throughout those kinds of experiences, Rory was the ultimate colleague, mentor and friend. From the airing of my first TV package, when he took time out to point out many rookie errors to this rookie, to the kind words offered over a leaving toast on my final day at the BBC, Rory offered nothing but generosity and support.

That’s not a given in the news business. In an ego-driven industry, where correspondents can be protective of airtime at the expense of newer reporters, Rory went out of his way to elevate the careers of those around him. I was lucky enough to be one of many to benefit, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

Sadly, his departure signals the end of an era of technology coverage at the BBC, not just as it relates to him, but the structure of technology reporting in the BBC’s newsroom in general.

The unfathomable decision to move the technology news team to Glasgow has seen several people with decades of combined experience walk out the door. Expertise a private company — or maybe just a smarter public broadcaster — would have done a lot more to keep. The geographical upheaval has no basis in logic, and will serve to diminish the BBC’s access and influence on key stories and with important sources. It makes no more sense to move BBC Tech to Glasgow than it would to relocate BBC Shropshire there too.

In short — the licence fee payer, and anyone who cares about the health of the British technology industry, should be disappointed that the BBC no longer considers technology news a priority*.

But, for the moment, let’s put that worry on ice. Since I can’t do it myself in person on Thursday night, I’m instead raising a virtual glass to Rory as he heads on to new things, projects I’m sure will continue his record of accessible, meaningful tech journalism. I also hope, above all else, it’s a chance to put his feet up.

Rory, it was an absolute blast. Thank you.

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(* I should stress that this is not a commentary on the calibre of the team that will be working in Glasgow. In particular, having worked with Zoe Kleinman for even longer than I have known Rory, I can say there’s no-one better to take the reins. If there’s anyone who knows how to navigate this new era, it’s Zoe.)