Axe grinder 03.03.06

Mountain made out of a mail hill

THE LATEST ruse from Express owner Richard Desmond’s fun factory at Lower Thames Street has sparked incredulity at the Daily Mail.

Execs at Rothermere Towers are muttering away over the campaign by the multi-millionaire family man to force Gordon Brown to abolish inheritance tax.

According to my spies at the Mail, editor Paul Dacre is seething that his troops failed to seize on such a key Middle England issue earlier.

Sources at the paper are now questioning the response to the campaign, which the Express claims has seen almost 200,0000 letters pour into their daily and Sunday titles.

"That’s one in 10 of all the readers they’ve got," says my Mail mole. "It’s incredible. We have to give away a country cottage to get that sort of response."

Perhaps Desmond will invite the enemy in to check the exact size of his mountains of mail for themselves?

Killing moles? What a laugh for Today

"IT WAS like listening to a group of schoolkids giggling behind the bike sheds," fumed one listener on the message board of Radio 4’s Today programme.

Another listener raged at the sound of presenter Jim Naughtie "snorting into his porridge" and sports reporter Garry Richardson "desperately trying to be funny".

The third presenter cackling away during a deadly serious item on Saturday’s edition of the flagship news programme was Sarah Montague. One email to the Beeb simply described her performance as "pathetic".

So what was the subject which left the trio collapsing into uncontrollable giggles and the listeners so infuriated?

For reasons best known to the hacks themselves, they decided an item on killing garden moles was the funniest thing they’d heard in years.

As one email to their message board put it: "So why all this laughter about killing harmless animals?"

Poor Blunkers earns peanuts — ask Hague

IS DAVID Blunkett being shortchanged by his friends at News International? I only ask because the new Register of MPs’ Interests reveals the former Home Secretary trousers between £70,000 and £75,000 a year from editor Rebekah Wade for his weekly column in The Sun.

Blunkers even namechecks his guide dog Sadie, who pens a truly bizarre tailpiece to the column about her master, "the bearded one", for Wade.

But the fee for this heroic doublehander does not compare well with the cash pocketed by ex-Tory leader William Hague at NI stablemate the News of the World.

Before giving up the lucrative gig to join David Cameron’s frontbench team, Hague picked up £100,000 for his fourth six-month contract at the paper.

Even maverick Respect MP and Big Brother star George Galloway was paid £75,000 for his weekly column in The Mail on Sunday before it was dropped — and that only appeared in Scotland.

Must be time that Blunkett, who famously dined with Wade and husband Ross Kemp on the night of their infamous domestic, asked for a pay rise.

Nerdish Dave’s JC application in the Standard

Anyone who ever doubted that nerdish David Rowan would get the editorship of the Jewish Chronicle should check out his website: www.davidrowan.com.

It features a slightly-too-smug pic of Rowan with a huge archive of his oeuvres dating from November 1997 (yes, really!) and an email address so he can make money from your ideas — sorry, so he can "investigate" your stories.

Curiously, Rowan’s website carries a fulsome interview with former JC editor Ned Temko, which ran in the Evening Standard in March 2005.

In the piece, Rowan trumpets the influence of the JC as well beyond its 35,000 sales and "also very profitable".

Well done, Dave. The job application clearly worked.

Campaign to save pot plants

THE FEROCIOUS cost-cutting and sackings by chief exec Sly Bailey at the Mirror titles has left a black cloud hanging over the Wharf. The latest, hopefully unfounded, rumours are that parts of the library might be outsourced to India. But editorial manager John Honeywell is doing his best to keep spirits up with an upbeat email urging staff to forget their cancelled Christmas and to help save the office pot plants.

Three Speccy rejects claim a pay increase

THERE IS some cheer for disappointed hacks who missed out on the editor’s chair at The Spectator — and even better news for some who were never in the running.

Many appear to have whispered to their bosses that they were publisher Andrew Neil’s top choice for the job and used it to push for a pay rise.

The lengthy delay before ex-Sunday Telegraph deputy editor Matthew D’Ancona was anointed by Neil left plenty of time to hammer out a deal for extra cash.

"At least three people whose names were put in the frame have told me they used the speculation to get a pay rise,"

according to one source at the "Speccy".

Times hacks can’t get a decent scoff

MORALE HAS plunged even lower at The Times over the memo on expenses from deputy managing editor David "slasher" Chappell.

Hacks were particularly infuriated by the line: "While Pizza Express need not become the restaurant of choice, neither should The Ivy."

Anyone who has ever worked at the Wapping Gulag knows that the trudge to the Tube and subsequent journey to Covent Garden can take almost an hour each way. That rules out any chance of lunch — even if Chappell accepted a bill from The Ivy.

Only executives who still enjoy the perk of calling on a chauffeur-driven car have any chance of making it to the West End for a decent scoff.

Ironically, one of the few boltholes within a short walk of the wasteland that is Wapping is, you guessed it, Pizza Express.

Girlie spat between Mason and socialist

IT APPEARS that Mirror columnist Kevin Maguire’s persecution in his New Statesman column of political journalist Rob Gibson is turning a little nasty.

Maguire has been regularly tormenting Freemason Gibson in print after he accidentally emailed out some minutes of one of his Masonic meetings.

But Gibbo has now started deriding Maguire in Westminster’s bars as a "Sedgefield socialist" in a dig at the Geordie’s metropolitan lifestyle. Time to put the handbags down, girls.

What planet is Stokes on?…

I HAVE great news for hacks at The Independent battling to squeeze a tiny pay rise out of editor-in-chief Simon Kelner.

Everyone now has the chance to cough up some of their hard-earned cash to pay for a "great value" massage at £13 for 20 minutes, says "Indy" beancounter Charlie Stokes. Not on the same planet, are you Charlie?

… same planet as Barron, presumably

JOURNALISTS AT the BBC often unkindly refer to BBC2’s Newsnight as the natural home of "officer class"

hacks at the Corporation, who are not too familiar with everyday concerns and get over-excited about the strangest things. Judging from the following email from the show’s editor Peter Barron, it’s not hard to see why.

Juicy secrets not leaked — or were they?

TO LUNCH with my chums with the journalists’ charity the NPF, where Press Gazette colleague Max Clifford and ex- Sun boss Kelvin MacKenzie were the star turns.

In a gloriously off-the-record speech, Clifford downloaded some of his juicy secrets about celebs and soccer superstars and their predilections.

Even more astonishing was the fact that the assembled hacks broke the habit of a lifetime by not leaking the details to anyone — apart from me, of course. But for once, my lips are sealed.

Heavyweight analysis… of gay cowboys

A HUGE fanfare greeted the arrival of Bill Clinton’s former White House spokesman James Rubin as part of a major relaunch at Sky News.

News supremo Nick Pollard promised Rubin would bring some heavyweight coverage and analysis of foreign policy issues to Sky every night.

But disappointing ratings appear to have heralded a sharp gear change as Rubin’s World News Tonight show on Monday moved away from the serious stuff of Israel and Iraq to a different kind of international affairs — "the real Brokeback Mountain" as seen through the eyes of gay cowboys in the States.

More rivalry as Hennessy slags off the ST

GLAD TO report the bitter rivalry among the Westminster press pack on the Sunday papers is alive and well.

The Sunday Telegraph’s political editor Patrick Hennessy is the latest to plunge the knife into The Sunday Times.

Appearing on Julian Worricker’s BBC Radio Five Live show, Hennessy waxed lyrical about his own paper’s coverage about the financial dealings of Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and her husband David Mills. But Hennessy swiftly added that he "had to say Tessa Jowell has issued a strong denial to The Sunday Times’ story compiled by its Insight team". Ouch.

Newsdesk’s geography is the pits

Is the Yorkshire Post newsdesk in urgent need of a map?

"A Yorkshire coal mine has been saved after the workforce came up with its own plan to open up a new seam and improve productivity," read one of stories from the "National Newspaper of Yorkshire" this week.

The tale went on to explain how Harworth Colliery had been threatened with closure, but owner UK Coal has now agreed to keep it operating by opening up a new coalface to tap into another 1.5 million tonnes of reserves.

Which is all well and good.

The only problem is — the mine is actually in Nottinghamshire…

 

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