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Emma has always been great… but her first post today risked slipping into Oprah territory, writes JAN MOIR as she listens to BBC Radio 4 at breakfast.

It’s no surprise that Emma Barnett’s debut on the Today show (BBC Radio 4) was confident, assured and polished, but did we have to endure so many moments of joyous self-esteem?

From the first sentence to the last, Emma took every opportunity to highlight her maiden voyage on the good ship Today.

“Here on my first shift on the Today show, it’s nice to be here,” she said just after the 6 a.m. pips. “I won’t make you blush during our first exchange,” she told a reporter.

When she asked Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, if he felt his views were being heard, she added: “Beyond this esteemed agenda that I am tackling this morning.”

At the end of the three-hour show, we were even treated to clips from his morning wake-up playlist, featuring Britney Spears and Led Zeppelin.

Emma Barnett took every opportunity to highlight her maiden voyage on BBC Radio 4's flagship Today show, writes JAN MOIR

Emma Barnett took every opportunity to highlight her maiden voyage on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today show, writes JAN MOIR

Former Women’s Hour presenter Emma is a wonderful presenter but – how can I say this politely – who cares what she listens to when she brushes her teeth?

At the end of the show, there was even a sticky exchange of thanks-no-thanks with his co-host Amol Rajan, both of them behaving as if they had just delivered a showpiece performance of Tristan and Isolde at the Sydney Opera House, instead of presenting a news program.

Their colleague Nick Robinson recently blamed Today’s audience decline on “news avoiders” who no longer want to confront the world’s problems. That’s right, Nick, blame the listeners. Or to be more precise, blame the listeners who no longer listen.

I would argue that the problem is not their reluctance to connect, but the rampant cult of personality that has taken over this once great program; celebrity cholesterol that now obstructs his airways.

Early in the morning, people just want news with their bacon – not fried egos. Instead, they have Amol Rajan garnish everything with the benefit of his smart alec opinions, and now Emma Barnett is laughing about how much she loves Britney.

“Yeah, exactly,” Amol will drawl after an expert delivers his wisdom distilled after 50 years of conscientious research on a complex subject.

“They should listen more to their parents and less to their friends,” he tweeted yesterday, after an article on behavior in playgrounds. Besides these banal thoughts being extremely irritating, is personally writing articles in this way really the role of Today presenters?

Brian Redhead (RIP) ran Today for over 18 years, and we barely heard what he thought or felt about anything. John Humphrys might have allowed himself a little groan of pain if Wales lost rugby, but that was all.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that Emma brings new energy to the show. It was quite surprising to hear his loud, crazy laugh during an overly long – and actually not very funny at all – article about US Secretary of State Antony Blinken playing with a rock band during his trip to kyiv. Still, it gave Amol another chance to insert himself into the narrative.

“What a story and what a guy,” he said, before moving on to a report on sewage pumping.

There's no doubt that Emma brings energy to the show, as well as a bit of the warm, inclusive vibe of Women's Hour magazine.

There’s no doubt that Emma brings energy to the show, as well as a bit of the warm, inclusive vibe of Women’s Hour magazine.

Before joining Today, Emma said she thought it was a very different program to Woman’s Hour, which was a relief. However, it was interesting that she wasted no time in bringing some of the warm, inclusive vibe of WH’s magazine shows to the proceedings.

When reporting on sex education in schools, she said: “Some may remember that it came down to a very clumsy teacher putting a condom on a banana, or was that just my experience? Then – horror of horrors – she encouraged listeners to send in their own experiences with sex education. “I would like to read some of your posts if I can,” she said.

Perhaps the most important section of the show was its interview with James Coates, the son of Nottingham stabbing victim Ian Coates. Following the Court of Appeal’s refusal to vary the sentence of triple killer Valdo Calocane, an emotional Mr Coates said he felt he had been deprived of justice.

“I’m incredibly sorry,” Emma said at one point, visibly on the verge of tears. Today he later posted clips of the moment on his social media, showing Emma looking sad and glassy-eyed. There’s certainly a place for this kind of empathetic, lump in my throat, I feel your pain interview, but is it on the Today show?

Emma is a talented interviewer – one of the best in the business – and I have no doubt of the true depth of her emotion. Yet Today risked not only veering into Oprah territory, but also doing an interview about Emma Barnett and not Mr. Coates and his terrible heartbreak. The insidious cult of personality strikes again.

“What an extraordinary interview,” said Amol Rajan, as always having the last word.

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