hacked off

Tuesday, April 27

In a pickle

Jon Snow's been on the funny pills again:

Nicholas Glass is ploughing around the Gherkin. Indeed he's been inside it. I suspect a rather more comfortable experience than having a gherkin inside him.


Friday, April 23

German japes

Of course, Dirty Des' moment of madness won't make much difference to him - or his papers - in the long run. The Express is on the wane, and despite his protests that the Daily Mail "stands for everything I hate", tricky Dicky seems intent being a poor man's Dacre. His Basil Fawlty impression might raise a titter in media circles, and certainly proves his position as Fleet Street's biggest lunatic, but it just adds to a growing impression that he's lost it completely. Put simply, nobody cares about the Express any more.

And at the same time as Desmond rails against Nazis and berates Rothermere for facist connections 60 years ago, the Express continues to run its ludicrous campaign against another one of Hitler's hate groups: Gypsies.

In the words of Littlejohn: "you couldn't make it up".

Mr Nasty's Nazi, not nice

The chatter today is about the frankly amazing outburst by Express boss Richard Desmond when he was in a meeting with Telegraph bosses.

The extraordinary scenes, apparently prompted by a bid for the Telegraph by the German media group Axel Springer, took place at a meeting about the Westferry printing works in east London, which the Express and the Telegraph run jointly.

Mr Desmond, who has attempted to position himself as a respectable media owner by divesting himself of his pornography titles, called the Telegraph chief executive Jeremy Deedes a "miserable little piece of shit".

People present at the meeting said Mr Desmond - who dropped out of the race to buy the Telegraph after balking at the asking price - had at one point strutted up and down the room holding his fingers to his lips and giving stiff-armed salutes in emulation of the scene enacted by John Cleese in the TV sitcom Fawlty Towers...

In a mock German accent, Mr Desmond asked if the Telegraph bosses were looking forward to being run by Nazis. "That's not very helpful," Mr Deedes said, pointing out that Axel Springer had a commitment to the state of Israel as part of its stated publishing philosophy.

Mr Desmond said: "They're all Nazis." Mr Deedes replied: "That is thoroughly offensive. Could you please sit down so we can start the meeting?"

Mr Desmond replied "Don't you tell me to sit down, you miserable little piece of shit" and then launched into what witnesses described as "a stream of foul-mouthed abuse, both personal and general".

Mr Desmond added: "After three years dealing with a bunch of crooks I'm starting to enjoy this. You sat down with that fucking fat crook and did nothing." This was an apparent reference to Lord Black. Various other expletives were hurled at the Telegraph directors as the rant unfolded.

I haven't had this much fun since Piers Morgan was used as a punchbag by Jeremy Clarkson.

The irony is, of course, that this little spate of craziness came on the same day that the Express switched allegiances from Labour to the Tories. I bet Howard is pleased as punch that Dirty Des is backing his boys.

Wednesday, April 21

Eye aye

All denizens of Fleet Street have a special place in their heart for Private Eye, the venerable magazine that has scratched a place in the nation's psyche as a perennial piss-taker, and the editorial home of Piers Morgan's nemesis Ian "The Gnome" Hislop.

So imagine the joyous beats that fluttered through the heart of this little hack when the discovery of an archive of Private Eye covers was made. It made for a few titters and has a few historical points of interest - but what it most proved is how times change, but don't change at all.

Ten years ago

The cover star was Virginia Bottomley (the woman most famous for a name which is anagrammatical with "I am an evil Tory bigot") saying to a pal "There's no discrimination in the NHS". Said chum agrees: "Nobody gets treated".

Twenty years ago

This time the Thatch made a cover girl appearance, "The Government is not taking sides. We support the Coal Board", to which a forlorn-looking Dennis responds: "Let's hope the Distillers don't come out".

The archive's incomplete, so there's nothing registered for 30 or 40 years back, which was a little annoying, but I suppose these guys can't do everything for you.

Tuesday, April 20

Terror at the Telegraph

The suits are doing their best to build up enthusiasm for buying the Telegraph this week, as the groups courting Kanadian Komrade Konrad's papers continue having their face-to-face meetings with newspaper bosses.

Rumours are that the Daily Mail has already brokered a deal for more office space to accomodate the tab and broadsheet under the same roof - optimistic stuff, especially considering that many observers seem to be pinpointing German publishing group Axel Springer as the hot favourites.

Certainly Springer have stumped up more cash than their rivals, and their partnership with Mighty Morphin Moron Haim Saban means they are interested in the entire group (word on the street has it that Israeli-born Saban wants to use the Jerusalem Post as a propaganda sheet) - a more attractive offer than some others. But if the money men can find lucrative buyers for each individual part of Black's balls-up empire, they might want to break it up and let the constituent parts go their separate ways. Whatever way you look at it, it's a right royal cock-up.

But at least if it resulted in Boris Johnson getting the chop from the Spectator, some good will have come from all this.

Monday, April 19

Digging the dirt

Desperate times at the Mail on Sunday, which decided to continue its broadside at both the BBC and the government with an amazing scoop that former BBC boss (and current Labour adviser) Lord Birt is, in fact, a porn baron.

"LORD DIRT" it screamed with all the hysteria of Tunbridge Wells' most outraged citizens.

Unfortunately, the story stands up about as well as Emile Heskey on a muddy pitch. The facts? Birt is a director of Paypal, the internet payment system. Birt's link to porn, therefore, is that some people use Paypal to buy pornography.


What's that I hear? Sounds like a barrel being thoroughly scraped.

Friday, April 16

Tabloid trebles

Readers of today's Press Gazette will be interested to come across a full-page ad from News International plugging their recent 'treble' of scoops in the News of the World.

While it's not really a resumption of the full-blooded hostilities between the red tops that existed when Egghead Yelland was still the editor of the Sun, it's a fair crack from Andy Coulson and his croneys. It's partial payback for the Mirror's Paul Burrell story and the Ryan Parry palace snoop - but throwing in the Arsenal reference is a clear dig at gooner Piers Morgan.

Not sure it will have Morgan spitting out his spaghetti at San Daniele di Friuli, but it was worth a pop for a spot of gloating, I suppose.

Thursday, April 15

Family affair

One can only imagine the crimson-faced fury which professional windbag and part-time newspaper editor Piers Morgan greeted the News of the World's Rebecca Loos story. After all, not only did his paper fail to improve on its recent Paul Burrell and Ryan Parry scoops - but it turns out that Beck's Becks is a member of the Morgan clan.

Times story sniffer Andrew Pierce uncovered the truth yesterday:

“It’s true. We are related,” he said. “She is my second cousin by marriage. We went to a wedding together once in Madrid which makes it all the more galling that the News of the World got the story.

“But the family connection meant nothing. When I spoke to her she said that her loyalty was to the News of the World, not the family name.”

The continuing revelations about Becks and Loos have one advantage for Morgan. “I am no longer the black sheep of the family,” he said.

The Mirror, though, seems to have traded in its usual spoiling vitriol. Were family ties just too strong? Is Morgan losing his touch?

Sky balls

News flash headline seen on Sky News today: Coalition: attacks are not 'a popular resistance'.

Well, not very popular with the coalition, at least.

Easy as ABC

The ABC figures for March contain yet more bad news for the Guardian - down more than 10% down year on year for the second month in a row.

Guardianistas - including Harry Potter-esque honcho Alan Rusbridger - insist that the slip is merely reflective of the high circulations achieved last year during the war in Iraq. Bravado surely - the period-on-period figures show a slide of nearly 7%, and while his paper haemmoraghed 43,000 readers, the tabloid Independent picked up nearly 35,000.

Meanwhile in the Sundays, the Observer - pitted against a broadsheet Indy, is remaining relatively stable. That can't be a coincidence: if the shrunk-in-the-wash Indy is stealing readers wholesale from the Guardian, it's not turning them into Independent faithfuls.

The lesson? Newspaper readers might be fickle beasts, but you can't stand still if the opposition changes tactics.

Wednesday, April 14

Loos morals

On the subject of Becksgate...

A few of the papers that have been running stories on Beckham's bedroom antics have picked up a twist in the Sarah Marbeck story: the Mail says Becks' model was 'call-girl', the Mirror claims she's Yours for £400... an hour, while the Sun goes for something much more understated:

So where have all these stories come from?

Smart money is on a canny PR - perhaps even on the representatives of the girls themselves.

Their first reason for biting back might be the simple task of protecting your own scoop. The people behind Loos might want to trash Marbeck and vice versa. And they might want to stop other people trashing their own lass first.

Secondly there's keeping the story alive - making sure your girl on the front pages, whatever it takes. That keeps her cache up, and by extension keeps you in the game.

And then, most importantly of all, there's the cash. After all, trousering 20% of the wodge from these kiss-and-tells might net a PR a couple of hundred thousands pounds, but the cynical public relations guru can probably make a lot more money from selling stories about these girls rather than the stories of the girls themselves.

Biting the hand that feeds them? Hey, nobody ever suggested there were morals in operation here.

Nothing to Loos

Newsroom suits at Sky are desperately trying to boost their big interview with alleged Beckham banger Rebecca Loos - and after forking out something in the region of £150,000 for the show, they've got every reason. Sky News is currently trailing the interview with the zeal for scandal usually reserved for the tabs - (more likely it's a desperation born of fear). It's getting around the network like a bad smell, heading every bulletin and slipping into every report.

ITV gophers say they pulled out of bidding for the Loos telly scoop because it wasn't worth it - and they were right. Sky paid over the odds for a story which the News of the Screws has been carrying for a couple of weeks, and is already more over-exposed than Jordan.

Tuesday, April 13

Safety in numbers

With things hotting up in parts of Iraq, America's news networks are getting increasingly jittery about the safety of their journalists, and have started creating their own circles of protection.

In fact, they've gone as far as creating their own Fallujah pool in order to help safeguard their reporters and crew: From Television Week:

ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC news operations agreed to share video obtained from besieged Fallujah by a network pool that last week consisted of a CBS News crew, a Fox News producer and an ABC News uplink. The pool travels and operates under the protection of U.S. Marines who are trying to regain control of the central Iraqi city. Lourdes Navarro, a broadcast correspondent for the Associated Press, has been phoning reports of the Marines' battle for Fallujah to a number of TV outlets in the States.

The real concern - especially with hostages being taken left, right and centre - is that journalists may become legitimate targets. I wonder how long it is until we see a high-profile journalist kidnapped by rebels and held to ransom?

Monday, April 12

Non-denial denial

"This weekend a series of even more absurd and unsubstantiated claims have been published about David and Victoria Beckham.

"The couple continue to dismiss these stories and they will not be commenting upon them further at this time.

"Lawyers have been instructed by David and Victoria concerning these matters."

Sunday, April 11

Go fourth and multiply

Talking of Rupert Murdoch, New York Press runs an annual bitchslapping list of "50 most loathsome New Yorkers". Most of them are pretty unknown to us Brits, either as socialite trash or annoying tabloid fodder, or both. I mean, would you expect a Yank to know who Tara Palmer Twatkinson or Jordan are? This time, though, there's a special amount of venom saved especially for Rupe and his mini-me Lachlan, who come in together at #4.

I'll leave the talking to NYP:

"WHEN BRITISH TELEVISION playwright Dennis Potter learned he had terminal cancer, he named the tumor "Rupert." A bloody, distended hemorrhoid might have been more apt. The Aussie-born antichrist is alive and well, enjoying U.S. citizenship and avoiding his tax obligations, while Fox News continues to offer the world a glimpse of what American fascism would look like. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion, all 175 of Murdoch's papers argued for war and threw editorial acid on those who disagreed. But if you're one of the millions of people who can't think of a single good reason why Rupert Murdoch shouldn't die a slow and painful death next week, here's one: Lachlan, his tattooed, 32-year-old idiot-savant heir currently serving as the publisher of the New York Post. As a newspaper reportedly losing between $15 and $20 million each year, the Post is tied with the pyramids for biggest vanity project in history—all so that Little Lachlan can have a star-spangled tabloid in New York. If there is a chunk of the WTC that hasn't yet fallen to Earth, let it crash onto father and son the next time they're dining at the Carlyle."

As Australia's biggest export spreads his wiry old fingers further around the globe, he seems to rack up enemies as fast as he does friends. Still, hating him never stops any of us watching the footie on Sky, does it?

Sun, sand and sackings

Strange goings on in Wapping, with Belinda Furneaux-Harris, News Group's marketing director, being pushed aside. Apparently she still works for the company, but rumours abound that Mirror Group's Ellis Watson is looking for a return to the Murdoch fold.

And all this just a short while since all of Rupert's newspaper execs joined him for a bit of brainwashing (and rainwashing, apparently) in Cancun. Seems Mexico wasn't so sweet for some.

Friday, April 9

Pulitzer puke

Slate writer Jack Schafer gets the boot in on the Pulitzers by So you won a Pulitzer - who cares?. He's got a point. The self congratulatory nature of Pulitzer coverage seems totally out of kilter with the actual worthiness of the prize. Maybe it's just me, but Pulitzers seem like arseholes: everybody's got one.

Well, not everyone.

"The Pulitzers for journalism aren't for the best journalism of the year, merely the best newspaper journalism of the year. Make that the best American newspaper journalism of the year. Even the Academy Awards are more ecumenical than the Pulitzers, honoring foreign films, short subjects, technical achievement, animated features, and even the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award."

Too right, Jack, too right.

Thursday, April 8

Snow it all

There are a lot of email news updates and promotion guff floating around, but the best by a distance is Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow's Snowmail. It's the personal touch that does it - today he's talking about the appearance of Bush croney Condoleezza Rice in front of the 9/11 Commission:

"Rice is on the stand as I speak and an extra-terrestrial figure she cuts. She smiles a lot but her eyes are disconnected from the bottom half of her face. Steely, I would say, and impressive".

He can often be seem like a bit of an overblown fool, but at least he's honest.

Three's a crowd

Today is pretty much a textbook example of the different way the British press treats its news - and its readers.

The broadsheets are pretty much dominated by the escalating violence in Iraq. The Telegraph and the Guardian focus on the general spread of violence, the Indy looks at how American soldiers face extended tours of duty. The Times, meanwhile, has an exclusive by its Jerusalem correspondent Stephen Farrell, who was kidnapped - and then released - by rebels.

His close shave with death (headline: "A Kalashnikov in my face, a knife in my ear, a masked thug screaming 'You're finished'") makes for a great story, but Farrell wastes it criminally by overwriting. He sounds like a teenager who's been overfed hardboiled detective fiction suddenly scribbling in his diary:

"The 'hailstones' bounced off the roof and windscreen around noon, 20 miles from Baghdad.

Fallujah hail - bullets."

Meanwhile, the midmarket schlock fails to surprise by focusing on the Middle England outrage over a group of Kosovans wo have been compensated after being shot by British troops on a peacekeeping mission. The Mail takes the slightly cynical line "Shoot and we'll sue!", while the Express does its best to parody its 'hate asylum seekers, love our brave boys' stance with: "Welcome to the asylum: Refugees get legal aid to sue British troops... and WIN".

The tabs, of course, remain focused on the only story that really matters: whether David Beckham scored with his personal assistant. It's the that won't go away. The Mirror pictures Posh and Becks "snogging" (read peck on the lips) while the Sun scrapes through the bottom of its barrel of puns to discover "Posh: David's put a smile Beck on my face!".

Three different markets, three different stories, absolutely no surprises.