Axegrinder 13.10.2006

Prison piece author caught bang to rights

HANG on, a sec. What's this? Page eight of Tuesday's Sun ran an op-ed piece, headlined: "Build a prison. Win our votes". What catches my eye is that the article is written by a certain Kath Raymond, described in the tabloid as "a former Home Office adviser".

Clearly The Sun couldn't find the space to tell the paper's readers that Ms Raymond is also the girlfriend of News International chairman Les "Miserables" Hinton. Friends describe her as being "bubbly and good fun".

Would Ms Raymond have got such a lucrative gig at The Sun if she were not the woman who shares Hinton's duvet? Only cynics would ask such a question. Perhaps she was recommended to Wade by disgraced former Home Secretaryturned Sun columnist David Blunkett, Ms Raymond's ex-boss.

Anyway, Axegrinder has been watching her gradual transition from civil servant to national newspaper journalist. Apparently, her first published article was an item about mental health. It appeared in January — in the Hinton-run Times.

Puzzling matter of Cristina's hasty departure

WHAT was behind Cristina Odone's departure from The Guardian? One minute she was writing an entertaining column about the media; the next minute her contract was terminated and she was told her services were no longer required.

I am sure that The Guardian would never bow to outside pressure, but Odone has been mischievously informed that two influential men complained about her column. The first was Kevin Beattie, chief penny-pincher at Associated Newspapers, who complained when Odone wrote a piece which criticised the Mail's Ireland operation.

Odone has been told that the other man who complained about her was Andrew Neil, who apparently took exception to her criticisms of the Speccie. Odone and Neil had previously been quite good chums.

Odone is in a difficult position: she cannot write about her controversial departure from The Guardian because she is still employed by the paper's sister title, The Observer. Is she upset? "Cristina is at home in a pool of tears," I am told.

Drama as Lewis points the finger in style

THERE WAS a dramatic moment at the Telegraph when deputy Will Lewis, just before he was made editor, suspected he'd been stitched up by columnist Simon Heffer.

Lewis marched into Heffer's office and said: "I understand you've been leaking stories about me to media diaries."

Heffer glanced up from his keyboard. He seemed confused. Yet before he could utter a denial, Lewis whipped out a business card from his trouser pocket and threw it onto Heffer's desk, saying: "If you've got any problems, that's how you get hold of me. You come through the front door. Don't use the tradesman's entrance."

With that, he retreated from Heffer's smelly office and the puzzled columnist was left blinking into his bottle-top glasses.

Forget the British Press Awards. Lewis could be up for an Oscar if he continues with spotlight-grabbing performances like that.

Comment didn't sit well with photographers

READERS have been in touch following last week's item about William Sitwell, the editor of Waitrose Food Illustrated who used his "editor's letter" to fire his columnist, Professor Spoon.

I learn that this is not the first time Sitwell's page-three piece has caused annoyance. Pete Jenkins, vice chairman of the photographers' sub-committee of the NUJ, was riled when his wife showed him a copy of the June issue of WFI.

"In the editor's letter," writes Jenkins on the NUJ website, "the erstwhile William Sitwell had a little joke with his readers at the expense of hard-working photographer Simon Brown. Simon had to traipse after Mr Sitwell while the editor lived it up in Cuba recently. Simon's spread of pictures appears later in the magazine, but Sitwell presents four postage stamp-size snaps taken on his new mobile phone and says, ‘Photographers… who needs 'em?' Yeah right, so funny."

Adds Jenkins: "You just know that he really does think his mobile phone makes him a professional photographer, don't you?

"Why is it that with the advent of digital imaging, editors and the general public now think that the mere possession of any kind of digital camera somehow endows upon the owner 25 years of hard-earned experience!"

A Black day at Digital Living

MEANWHILE, spare a thought for Bruce Black, editor of Emap's new mag Digital Living.

Black penned his first editor's letter for the publication but managed to cock up the first line of his introduction to readers. A wee "we" would have enabled his sentence to make sense.

Indy girl goes from Grunter to glamour

MANY thanks to the Axe reader called Jill, who writes: Have you seen Rhoda Koenig's amazingly glamorous picture byline in the Independent on Sunday arts section (she sometimes does the telly column)?

Can this be the same slightly sturdy middle-aged woman who used to be Punch's theatre critic and still turns up occasionally at West End first nights reporting for The Independent? Koenig's nickname among some of her fellow critics is "The Grunter", such is her habit of snorting disapproval of people and plays she dislikes.

The picture byline must have been taken at least 20 years ago.

Critic's online profile has gone tits up

VETERAN theatre critic Michael Coveney, who nowadays plies his trade mainly on an internet site called Whatsonstage.com, has been accused — there is no easy way of saying this — of being a wanker.

Coveney reviewed a play at the Royal Court called Piano/Forte in which one of the female stars strips off her shirt to bare a pair of what Coveney called "the most beautiful breasts" he had seen since Harriet Walter pulled them out a few years ago.

Readers of Whatsonstage.com have reacted sharply to the review. Coveney has been called everything from "an old pervert" to, "lascivious", a "saddo" and a "creepy git". One complainant said: "I think it's reasonable to expect a critic to write their review with both hands."

Phew!

Until now Coveney has always seemed a high-minded man of letters, a snooty contributor to left-wing journals such as the New Statesman and Prospect.

Should he perhaps be thinking of moving to Penthouse and Nuts?

Hutton fails to preach what he practised

LEFT-WING reporters covering the Conservative party conference could barely disguise their laughter when Will Hutton, sometime editor of The Observer and nowadays head of something called the Work Foundation, appeared on the conference platform.

Hutton proceeded to deliver a pious little homily about the importance of employers cherishing "the soft" (i.e. being nicer to employees) and thinking about the things companies can provide for their staff. When at The Observer, funnily enough, the same Will Hutton was known as something of a hatchet man, as well as being an extremely indifferent editor. And at The Guardian he is remembered for making some controversial choices regarding the company pension plan, which some Guardian hacks still resent to this day.

And now he's preaching to the Tories!

The quiet rise to brilliance

INTERVIEWED in the Indy, the mighty Andrew Neil describes the associate editors of The Spectator — Fraser Nelson and Allister Heath — as the "two most brilliant journalists of their generation".

Fraser's career (before Neil appointed him to the Speccie a few months ago)

consisted of a stint as political editor of The Scotsman — a job which allowed him to double up as political editor of Neil's The Business.

No one in the lobby can remember him getting a decent story and he's now topping up his wage as a NoW columnist.

Hardly, the track record of "one of the most brilliant etc"…

As one colleague put it to me: "He's risen without trace."

Telegraph obit desk loses its source of sanity

THE entire Daily Telegraph obituaries team is in mourning — and may be close to a mass walkout — following another baffling decision from the paper's management.

The Barclays' little helpers decided that one of the people who needed to be axed by the paper was Teresa Moore, a petite, dark-haired Cockney who for the past 20 years has worked as the obits secretary.

"It's an utterly bonkers thing to do," I am told. "Teresa was possibly the only sane person on the obits desk. The hacks are all fantastically gifted writers, but have always been, let us say, unusual in their personal habits.

"If you were more brutal you'd say they were half barking mad! They'd lose photographs, start running late with copy, forget what they were meant to be doing, but Teresa always steered the boat into harbour and made sure deadlines were met.

"She also, and this is rather an important ability on an obits desk, had the ability to talk sympathetically but factually to readers who rang in to announce amazthat someone notable had died."

The Telegraph's obituaries are, by widespread agreement, one of the paper's finest parts. Now Murdo "Most Foul" Maclennan has gone and axed the person who kept the show on the road. Genius.

Sun gets Max by the Googlies

A GOOGLE search for "max clifford" brings up two main sponsored links — The Sun and the News of the World — both appealing for people to by-pass scoop merchant Clifford. "Don't give agencies your money," says the Sun link.

While Andy Coulson's News of the World declares: "We pay more than anyone for exclusives."

Paper “back nine” Wryter

Following the heroics of the Ryder Cup team, the Press Golfing Society delights in announcing that they took on their French ounterparts (APG France) in the annual Wryter Cup tournament osted at Les Bordes in France last week and won by 17 to 15 points. The team, captained this year by the Mirror’s Kevin Price, battled torrential floods for two days, but managed a fourth consecutive victory. Now Axegrinder is no golf expert… but isn’t beating the French rather like beating the pygmies at basketball?

Stringfellows's Standard pleasure

A disgusted Axegrinder fan from somewhere near Tunbridge Wells draws my attention to page 28 of Tuesday's Evening Standard.

"Take a look at that so un- Associated Newspapers advert in the bottom left-hand corner," says our man. "How on Earth did that creep in? ‘You are all invited to continue partying afterwards at my new club with 50 beautiful nude angels dancing for your pleasure,' beckons Peter Stringfellow.

Whatever next? 0898 quickie phone sex ads? How on Earth will they attack Dirty Desmond from now on?"

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