Axegrinder 02.03.07

Desmond ditches Diana for story about… himself

Express owner Richard Desmond came up with an exciting diversion from his paper’s usual diet of splashes.

He ditched his traditional page one favourites of Princess Diana conspiracy theories, property prices and weather stories for a story about himself.

Well, to be precise, it was a story about the Richard Desmond Children’s Eye Centre Hospital which was given “the seal of approval” by the Queen (24 February). Mark Reynolds was the hapless hack dispatched to spin up the story into a splash about his boss’s £2.5 million donation after he received “firstclass”

treatment at Moorfields which saved his sight.

But what really caught Axegrinder’s eye were the celebrities hauled in for the event.

Topless model Katie Price (aka Jordan) pitched up with hubby Peter Andre – although she was “dressed modestly” which must have eased the Queen’s fear of being upstaged.

But wait. Reynolds reports there were other “special dignitaries – media peer Lord Ali, Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry and the Mayor of Islington, Jyoti Vaja.”

Who could fail to be impressed by such a turn-out of real A-listers?

Was Andrew Pierced off by Jowell scoop?

The Daily Telegraph’s story-getting associate editor Andrew Pierce must have been fascinated to read about the latest shenanigans of Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell in The Mail on Sunday.

An email pops up in my inbox from an MoS insider to crow over the paper’s story (25 February) that Jowell’s “estranged” husband David Mills had stayed overnight at her new flat.

Indeed, the paper’s pictures show Mills, who faces corruption charges in Italy, leaving after a cosy and doubtless enjoyable stay with his wife at her north London pad.

How very different, my MoS source chuckles, from Pierce’s exclusive just before Christmas which boasted “unhappy Jowell heading for divorce”.

Peter pines as Kearney joins ‘officer class’

Spare a thought for Newsnight editor Peter Barron. Judging by the gushing tribute on his blog, the poor chap is going to miss his political editor Martha Kearney who leaves his BBC2 show for Radio 4’s The World At One.

“Politics is her big love, but she is more of a renaissance woman than that,” reveals Peter.

“She reads novels like other people breathe, bakes cakes, keeps bees, can decline Latin nouns – frequently does – and has a highly satisfactory knowledge of 70s new wave music.”

Sounds like Martha’s got exactly the right qualities to be a fully paid up member of what jealous rivals refer to as the BBC’s “officer class” of high-profile high earners.

Blair’s a man for all seasons in NoW story

“Blair will quit as MP” screamed the News of the World headline in a page two story (25 February) which declared the Prime Minister will stand down as an MP in the autumn.

Bizarrely, a story on the same page about Labour chairwoman Hazel Blears insisted Blair will quit “this summer”.

The Daily Mirror was about the only paper to follow-up the confusing hotchpotch of a “revelation” about Blair’s departure date.

The paper must have ignored later editions of the Screws when the following quote from a Number 10 spokeswoman was mysteriously tagged to the story: “This story is simply not true.”

Quite.

Coren’s asset is frozen after Bird’s Eye deal

Just weeks ago, Giles Coren announced that he’s giving up writing his opinion column for The Times – for a while at least.

Now we learn the irrepressible “son of Alan” and Times restaurant critic has signed a lucrative deal to promote the wares of frozen food maker Bird’s Eye – a strange move for someone who moans about the type of mineral water on offer at the various eateries he’s obliged to tour for his restaurant column in The Times’ Saturday mag.

With his novel Winkler languishing at number 22,403 in Amazon’s best-seller list, the extra cash will doubtless come in handy for Coren.

But then – to repeat a joke which Coren will be hearing rather a lot – “Nothing’s too good for the Captain’s table”.

Is Andy about to get back in the saddle?

I have news for anyone wondering what Andy Coulson is up to these days in the wake of his sudden departure from the News of the World.

The ex-editor – who fell on his sword in the wake of the jailing of his royal editor Clive Goodman – was spotted in media hangout Soho House a few days ago.

Coulson was in the company of his former deputy Neil Wallis and showbiz editor Rav Singh.

“Coulson was wearing a suit which I thought was a bit odd given he’s not working,” says my spy. “Perhaps he had just been for a job interview?”

High-level changes set for City AM

Rumours are swirling around the offices of London freesheet City AM that changes are planned.

Chief executive Lawson Muncaster is plotting something “at a very high level”, according to loose-tongued gossips at the title.

BBC news exclusives are just Horrocks

Following an edict from the head of news Peter Horrocks, BBC hacks are under more pressure to find exclusives to set the agenda.

But the demand has led to the increasingly infuriating use of the phrase “the BBC has learnt” at the start of many TV and radio news items.

Sadly, many of the so-called exclusives have featured in the national papers that morning.

“I think that some of the correspondents who claim to be breaking a story just hope the newsdesk haven’t read The Sun or The Mail properly,” moans a disgruntled tabloid hack.

But the Beeb has found an alternative which may solve the problem by using the phrase “the BBC has confirmed”

as an intro to some stories.

Axegrinder wonders if this means they’ve merely rung up the press office and checked out the story?

Trev has a lot to say – but not on his blog

“Read the blog politicians fear” – boasts The Sun about the online musings of its associate editor and resident greybeard Trevor Kavanagh.

Axegrinder reckons Kavanagh must have terrified cabinet ministers into submission as The Sun’s former political editor hasn’t posted a word on his site since 21 December last year.

“There is certainly plenty to talk about,” says Kavanagh in his introduction to the blog. Apparently not, Trevor, if your blog is anything to go by.

Why The Press is off its trolley this week…

Last week Axegrinder told of an office chair fire reported on the Westmorland Gazette website that swept around the world. Astounded readers bombarded the website with comments such as “This story has upset me so much I don’t think I’m going to able to sleep tonight”.

The news of an innocuous local paper story prompting huge interest for perhaps the wrong reasons even attracted the interest of The Times newsdesk – the story was a page three lead on Saturday.

In similar vein, Axe has found a story on The Press in York’s website of a supermarket trolley which “came out of nowhere” and smashed into the side of a car causing “hundreds of pounds of damage”.

Some 323 comments later, feedback has now been closed.

Comments range from the cruel: Posted by: James Torr I have just hit a blackbird which flew out of a nest in a bush in Morrison’s carpark – who shall I contact to get a photograph and story in the Evening Press. Also I need a no-win, no-fee contact number as I’m going to sue Morrison’s.

To the humorous: Posted by: Racquel There was an old bint named Dearing, Of all Tesco trolleys she was fearing, It came from the side, and with her Citroen did collide, and since being in the YEP has now received 150 derogatory comments. Bet she wants to top herself after reading all this.

To the frankly libellous: Posted by: Fat Man’s Lunch I worked at Tesco with the ming hag, too. She got sacked for slapping a gay bloke, WHILE she was union rep and H&S rep. Hmmm, she’s such a model citizen, so I think the clapped-out old trout should just give up trying to blame her pathetic existence on the mighty Tesco empire and realise that her failings are all her own doings and being unable to drive round a car park (something which is one of the first things done in lessons) is just the tip of the iceberg! Oh, and her sister has no chin!

Rats in the newsroom? Nothing new in that

Surreal goings on at the Express – where word reaches Axe that rats have been spotted in the newsroom.

Nothing unusual about that in the national press you might scoff – but these are apparently the non-human kind. Owner Richard Desmond reportedly instituted a clean desk policy when Express Newspapers first moved to its smart, glass-fronted Thames-side offices. So he is unlikely to be too pleased that these less-than-clean animals have apparently joined his staff.

According to Axegrinder’s mole: “You only see them when it’s quieter, such as on evening shifts, but shifters just sit there as they scurry around looking for left-over food. They’re not that big, but they’re definitely rats, not mice. It’s totally surreal. They seem to like the subs’

desks best.

“There are a couple of theories doing the rounds. 1)

Peter ‘Mentally’ Hill has cast a spell on reporters who voice concern about his Diana/weather/house price stories; or 2) they’re hi-tech spies for Richard Desmond, listening for any dissent about his salary or growing megalomania.”

If you have an axe to grind – or some scandal to share, email axegrinder@pressgazette.co.uk Alternatively, call the Press Gazette newsdesk on 020 7234 2337

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