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From Across the Pond by Lananh Nguyen
Lananh Nguyen is a freelance reporter and junior copy editor for a financial newswire in London. She has worked for the Associated Press, BBC, KNTV, WGBH and various local newspapers. A Political Science graduate from Tufts University, she also studied International Relations at the London School of Economics. She will receive a British qualification from the National Council for the Training of Journalists in August.

Slow and steady wins the race.

In this era of short attention spans and 24-hour news, the BBC2's Newsnight is like news Prozac. And it's time Americans took some.

The hour-long daily program, not to be confused with CNN's NewsNight, features in-depth analytical news and interviews, with a focus on politics and world news.

Its format is like a drug, soothing news-weary brains so often overwhelmed by hyperactive infotainment. Newsnight gives UK viewers a dose of calm, reasoned information that is hard to find in America.

Each segment on the show runs for about 6 minutes, in contrast to the 1- to 2-minute packages aired on US network and cable television stations.

By virtue of its format (long) and content (national, world news), you'd be hard pressed to find commercially-driven American news organizations investing in a show like this. But I think that's a mistake.

While Newsnight may have American equivalents like Dateline or Newshour, the show is distinct from U.S. shows in its long format and popular viewership.

Newsnight is also smarter, more sleek and refreshingly mainstream.

The show is broadcast during a core news slot on weeknights at 10:30 p.m. It is carried by BBC2, the country's second-most watched network station. And it averages a million viewers a night, although this is sadly decreasing in the digital age.

Nevertheless, Newsnight's slot firmly debunks the American notion that intelligent news shows have to be buried into Sunday morning timeslots. Newsnight is smart news for the masses.

America's most revered broadcasters are known for their feistiness and intelligence, but the best reporters become anchors, or what the Brits aptly call "newsreaders."

Behind the desk, American anchors are talented reporters who become mere "newsreaders." They sit and read a teleprompter and can only shine during key interviews or special live coverage. But British presenters on shows like Newsnight are more free to exercise their reporting abilities.

A show like Newsnight gives presenters the time and editorial freedom to ask hard-hitting questions and delve into issues without relying on 15-second vox pops.

Jeremy Paxman, Newsnight's most famous presenter, once spent the majority of an interview with a government minister repeating the words "answer the question" when the politician tried to deflect his query.

Paxman's blunt style and sometimes uncomfortable interruptions, while impolite, have made him one of the UK's best and most feared interviewers. Paxman doesn't play the game, and doesn't treat a Prime Minister or head of state with the same reverence that a US reporter would have to treat the President.

Some might say that awkwardness during television interviews is a bad thing, but in Paxman's case they make for damn good, if not superior, television than the highly orchestrated interviews we see at home.

Newsnight's packages are structured to give multiple angles, not just two opposing points of view as is commonly done at home. Complex issues are explored and explained, not dumbed down to a few soundbites.

Last week, Newsnight led with 20 minutes of bombing coverage, which is to be expected. But the real shocker was its second major topic for the night: tensions between the US and China.

The coverage of Chinese company Cnooc's controversial bid to buy Unocal was so comprehensive, it stunned me.

Despite the fact that the major players in the story were two countries other than the UK, a British news show carried 6-minute analysis of the Chinese economy, currency revaluation and U.S. congressional opposition to Chinese exports.

Imagine my surprise when the comprehensive 6-minute piece was followed up with another 6-minute segment, a satellite interview with James Woolsey, former US CIA director. Interviews of high-profile foreign officials are rare, or practically non-existent in America, and usually confined to heads of state.

Twelve minutes of an hour-long news show devoted to two foreign countries is unheard of at home. In comparison, I doubt a story about Britain's recent spat with the European Union over agricultural reform would hardly get the same airplay, because it would be deemed irrelevant.

Newsnight's format proves that international issues can be "packaged" as what they are: newsworthy.

To watch Newsnight reports, visit: