Ian Katz (born 1967) is a British journalist who was the editor of the Newsnight current affairs programme on BBC Two, before becoming Director of Programmes at Channel Four. Earlier Katz followed a career in print journalism, and was previously a deputy editor of The Guardian until 2013.
Born into a Jewish family, although his "identification" as a Jew is "flimsier than most", he spent the first ten years of his life in South Africa. At that point, Katz and his family moved to London.
Katz was educated at University College School, an independent school for boys in Hampstead in North West London, followed by New College, Oxford, where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
Early career in journalism
After a brief period working on a newspaper in Costa Rica, Katz joined the short-lived Sunday Correspondent as a graduate trainee in 1989 along with Jonathan Freedland, a future colleague. During the following year Katz moved to The Guardian remaining there until his BBC appointment in 2013, apart taking up a Laurence Stern fellowship at The Washington Post in 1993. During his period at The Guardian, he was successively a reporter, foreign correspondent (in New York 1994–97), editor of the G2 supplement for eight years and has been responsible for the Saturday (2006–08) and the weekday editions of the newspaper,
Katz was responsible for the then new guardian.co.uk website in 1998. As features editor in January 2003, he ran an image commissioned from artist Gillian Wearing for the G2 front cover which consisted of the words: "Fuck Cilla Black". Intended to promote an article about the decline in the quality of British television, readers complained about the decline in the quality of newspaper journalism. Black's agent, her son Robert Willis, described it as a "cheap publicity stunt", and Wearing apologised for the offence caused.
In 2004, while editor of the G2 supplement, and having bought a list of voters, Katz oversaw the campaign for Guardian readers to pair with undecided voters in the marginal Clark County, Ohio to help swing the 2004 US Presidential election against George W. Bush and in favour of John Kerry. The campaign did not have a successful outcome, it was dropped after a negative response and Bush won Clark County. In 2008 he became deputy editor, at the same time as Paul Johnson and Katharine Viner.
Guardian deputy editor
As deputy editor, latterly overseeing News and Business coverage from Spring 2010, Katz supervised The Guardian's investigation by Nick Davies, and others, into the News International phone hacking scandal. Following the release in 2011 of the Palestine Papers by broadcaster Al Jazeera and The Guardian, Katz defended 'the newspaper against attacks from Ron Prosor, at the time the Israeli ambassador to the UK, who had seen it as demonstrating the newspaper's "affinity for Hamas". This assertion Katz wrote was "based on a highly tendentious reading of a single op-ed column [by Seumas Milne] and a single line of one of two editorials which the paper ran on the Palestine Papers".
Katz was also one of the newspaper's contacts with Julian Assange of Wikileaks, whose material The Guardian initially published before the relationship between the two organisations turned sour. According to an article in The Australian, David Aaronovitch of The Times at a panel discussion at the Frontline Club accused Katz of "dirty dealing", while Katz defended himself against an accusation of a "betrayal" of Assange levelled by Aaronovitch in the decision by The Guardian to publish documents relating to the Swedish sexual allegations involving Assange.
Ian Katz was on the final short list of two in 2015 to succeed Alan Rusbridger as editor-in-chief of The Guardian, but Katz's rival, Katharine Viner, was appointed instead. In the film The Fifth Estate (2013) Katz was portrayed by actor Dan Stevens.
Katz joined the BBC in July 2013, and became editor of Newsnight at the beginning of September. Katz is the permanent successor to Peter Rippon, as editor of the programme following serious errors in editorial practice in recent years.
Shortly after becoming editor, Katz sent an unintended tweet late on 9 September. Katz typed, in what he thought was a private direct message, that the Labour MP Rachel Reeves was "boring snoring" while being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on the programme. Katz deleted his tweet and apologised to both Reeves and the Labour Party.
A year later, Katz returned to the issue of the political interview in an article for the Financial Times. His mistake, he thought, had been to refer to Reeves when all political interviews had the "boring snoring" quality he had attributed to her appearance on Newsnight. He argued for a better understanding between the two sides in the "transaction", so that an interview is "a source of light as well as heat" becoming an opportunity to "explore and illuminate the dilemmas politicians face, to recognise that government is not a choice between good and bad policies but most often a search for the least worst option."