Axe Grinder 23.06.06

Byline bandit Nicholl blags a scoop

GOSH, readers of The Mail on Sunday must have thought as they flicked through last weekend's paper and saw how hard Katie Nicholl had been working.

Nicholl had not only managed to produce her usual diary, but had also brought in a genuine showbiz scoop — an "exclusive" interview with Camilla Boler, former girlfriend of singer James Blunt.

Across two pages, Ms Boler spoke candidly about her relationship with Blunt. According to Nicholl, "Camilla revealed to The Mail on Sunday" a meticulous account of how the couple split up. It was heart-wrenching stuff.

What then had Nicholl done to land this great scoop? How many early morning visits had she made to Ms Boler's doorstep, carrying towering bouquets?

How many charming notes had she popped through Ms Boler's letterbox requesting an interview? How many times had she spoken to Ms Boler, pleading that she tell her scintillating story to The Mail on Sunday?

Alas, Nicholl is living a fantasy. The truth is, Ms Boler did not reveal anything to The Mail on Sunday. And Ms Boler did not do an interview with Katie Nicholl.

Ms Boler's interview was, in fact, with showbiz writer Louise Gannon (known well in this parish) for Grazia magazine.

Bizarrely, considering the magazine was not yet on sale, Nicholl was given a preview copy by her close friend, Grazia's PR and former Mail exec, Ian Monk.

In an outstanding display of byline banditry, ‘Nicker' Nicholl erased Gannon's name, exchanging it for her own, and tossed in a couple of winsome clichés before sitting back to accept the plaudits.

Ms Boler — so heartbreakingly deceived by the unscrupulous Blunt — woke on Sunday to find herself royally stiffed once more. The heiress not only "loathes" the MoS, she "despises"

Nicker.

Sun lackey puts Macca in his place

EXHAUSTED staff at The Sun can take no more of the frequent appearances of Kelvin MacKenzie.

Since being hired to write a weekly column, the former Sun editor keeps appearing in the office, if only to scream at hacks and call them "useless ****s".

"He thinks he's back, running the show," says one journalist.

There was a particularly dramatic moment recently when MacKenzie phoned the newsdesk. He was apparently doing some research prior to writing an item for his column and instructed the newsdesk lackey to do a cuttings search.

"No," said the brave underling. "You come under features. If you want a cuts search, then ask features."

Armour plating was then required as MacKenzie fired back with a volley of obscenities and strangulated Anglo- Saxon.

After that, Macca made a series of unsuccessful calls to executives demanding that the "insubordinate"

newsdesk lackey be sacked.

Lonely story seeks byline

MEANWHILE, if Katie Nicholl worked on the Evening Standard, the paper's cock-up on Monday would never have happened. A story about a scholarship set up in memory of a 7/7 victim had the byline: "Byline Byline".

Dazed and confused of Wapping

RUPERT Murdoch (an avid reader of this column, incidentally) got lost during a recent visit to his Wapping HQ.

The News International boss had visited The Sun's office and was trying to make his way to his Sunday tabloid, but wandered into the Sun TV Guide office.

Staff glanced up from their computers to see the mogul standing in front of them. At long last, they thought for a moment, he has come to acknowledge our existence.

Alas, their pride rapidly faded when Ru looked confused and before heading off said: "This isn't the News of the World, is it?"

Stoppard hits nail on head

ONE particular line in Tom Stoppard's new play had the critics laughing on press night.

It happened when a character called Max talked about journalists' picture bylines and remarked: "Their photographs are always years old."

But why should this generate such tittering from our good friends, the Fleet Street drama critics? Maybe the fact that one of their number, the little-loved Nicholas de Jongh, still has a picture byline over his reviews which looks as though it was taken in the early 1970s.

Fact: The Independent's notoriously untidy theatre reviewer, the amazingly coiffed Paul Taylor, is not given a picture byline at all. Maybe his picture desk simply couldn't squeeze all his hair into a photograph.

Mirror decides three's a crowd

THE DEPARTURE of Kiki King from the Daily Mirror means that editor Richard Wallace will be searching for a new 3am Girl to replace her.

Or does it?

Sources at Canary Wharf tell Axegrinder that King's vanishing act provides an excellent opportunity for yet more cost-slashing at the Mirror.

From now, I am informed, there will only be two girls, rather than three, staying up until 3am.

Love It! cover story sadly out of date

"PREGNANT with X Factor star's twins," screamed the cover of Love It!

magazine.

Inside were pix of Kerry West, under the headline "I'm having Sinitta's twins". And an interview in which Ms West talked about how she was carrying twins for the '80s pop star.

Remarkable though it may seem, prior to publication the mag's staff had failed to hear the sad news that Ms West had suffered a miscarriage.

The miscarriage story had been reported in national newspapers a week before Love It! went to press. "It's one hell of a gaffe," says the editor of a rival magazine. "With a story like that, you would have thought someone would have made a follow-up call to Kerry West just before the pages were sent, just to check and see how things were."

Gove gushes about Sun, but silent on Times

TORY MP Michael Gove raised a point of order in the House of Commons the other day in which he noted that the Prime Minister told The Sun that "he backs its excellent campaign" that life should mean life for prisoners.

Strangely, while praising the Murdoch title, Gove didn't find the time to mention that he trousers £65,000-a-year from sister paper, The Times.

‘Gold-standard' Mirror looks a tad tarnished

WHEN Sly Bailey became chief exec at Trinity Mirror three years ago, the then chairman, Sir Victor Blank, was filled with enthusiasm.

Her arrival "signalled the beginning of a step change", he wrote in the 2003 annual report. Everyone was now committed "to improving performance at all levels and across all disciplines".

The same report contained a few words from Bailey, herself. She wrote in the same report that she was "in pursuit of the gold standard across all of our products".

That's what the shareholders were told. Zoom forward to June 2006 and this is what hacks on the flagship national newspaper were being told in an email from the IT department… Gold standard?

Teletubby uses Spike to wreak his revenge

OVER to Dublin where the Spike column in Ireland on Sunday continues to snipe at Irish Sun editor Mike McNiffe — I make that no less than 20 rants at the red-top's boss since November.

But surely Spike himself, Irish Mail news chief Paul Drury, must have learned his lesson by now. After Axegrinder revealed the reason behind his obsession with McNiffe — Drury failed to get the Sun job — he was hauled in by editor-in-chief Ted Verity and given a severe dressing-down.

One source says: "Drury got a real bollocking from Ted and was told in no uncertain terms that he had betrayed Associated's loyalty by applying for the Sun job. He was told his vendetta with McNiffe and Sun deputy Craig MacKenzie had to stop." (Associated owns IoS).

Worse was to come. Drury was then informed that Sebastian Hamilton from The Mail on Sunday was to be jetted in to the Dublin office — above the Irishman's head.

A chastened Drury then handed over the Spike column to Ronan "Teletubby"

O'Reilly, his news editor at the Irish Mail. O'Reilly is thought to be behind a particularly vicious attack on McNiffe last Sunday in the IoS.

Could this be the same Ronan O'Reilly, who received a newsroom clip from McNiffe 15 years ago? On that occasion O'Reilly ran off to lick his wounds at his parents' house — and didn't reappear for nearly a fortnight. He later refused to shake hands with his one-time chum.

And could this be the same O'Reilly who was bureau chief of the Irish Sun, until McNiffe was headhunted from the Irish Mirror?

One well-placed source says: "Teletubby has had it in for Mike since that little incident all those years ago.

Then to his horror, he learns that Mike is on his way to The Sun. He nearly fell over himself trying to get out."

O'Reilly managed to jump ship to the Mail — but now that his clear dislike of McNiffe is out, will Verity be forced to Spike his guns too?

Loyal Sun staff turn down Yelland jolly

NOW that David Yelland is doing very well in PR (though I won't publicise his company here) he thought he would take a brigade of hacks to watch England play in the World Cup.

One of his clients sponsors the tournament and Yelland felt it would be a good opportunity to improve public relations.

No expense was spared in an effort to keep the journalists happy. A private jet was laid on to fly them to Germany to watch England play Trinidad and Tobago. It was champagne and canapés all the way.

However, I am told that Sun staff — including John Kay and Ian King — turned down the invitation to enjoy this amazing freebie.

They felt it would be disloyal to Rebekah Wade if they went off for a day of fun and frolics with her predecessor.

Walk-in NHS centre cures Docklands' ills

THE FEELGOOD factor at The Independent continues apace. Health editor Jeremy Laurence has dispatched a bright ‘n' breezy email to colleagues encouraging them to "try out the spanking new NHS walk-in centre, one minute north of South Quay station".

"It was empty when I called in at 9.30am this morning," writes Laurence in the email. "Jane, the helpful nurse from Yorkshire checked me out efficiently and knowledgeably — and it beat waiting three hours at my own surgery where I had called in at 8.35am and been offered an appointment for 11.20am. It is only the third NHS walkin centre in London — and it's here."

Laurence signs off with the upbeat pronouncement: "There are some benefits to being in Docklands…"

Just another English woman abroad

MORE news on Amy Watts, one of the ladies behind the Daily Star's Goss column, and the hackette who was severely injured when she tried to leave the boozy Shaftas by flying down the stairs.

She gets married this weekend, but I trust the wedding speeches will not include a report of what happened during her hen party.

Watts and a gaggle of girlfriends went to Magaluf, or somewhere similar, for a couple of days and proceeded to drink the resort dry. During one high-spirited episode, I learn that Watts could stand the sweltering heat no longer and lifted her top for ventilation purposes.

Of course, the locals saw the naked flesh and took exception. There is talk of police being called to investigate accusations of indecent exposure.

Personally, I go with Watts who is telling colleagues that she simply got "a ticking off" from the hotel management. Still, she must adore gossip, mustn't she?

Record can't make mind up on gambling

THE Daily Record devoted last Friday's front page to the sad story of a young lad who used his parents' credit cards to run up massive debts by gambling online.

"Stop online lunacy," screamed the headline.

Inside the paper there was an editorial comment, headlined "Risky Business". Online gambling was not to be encouraged, was the gist. "Many are seduced by the convenience," readers were told. "It's fast and simple and too easy to forget that silly numbers represent hard cash."

Once readers had digested this strong attack, they could have turned to page 64. "Try your hand at online poker for free," read the headline, above a full page announcing that the Record had teamed up with 888.com.

Former footballer Ian Wright was pictured holding poker chips. Readers were encouraged to "play every night!".

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