Axegrinder: 19 January 2007

A plea from Axegrinder: Do you work in an ugly newsroom?

The illustration for last week’s Press Gazette story headlined “Staff backlash at YEP over plans for digital newsroom” reminded me of the glorious contribution to British architecture made by the regional newspaper industry in recent years.

Regional newspaper offices — often picturesquely placed in out-of-town trading estates — are more often than not majestic examples of what an architect can achieve with plenty of concrete, a little glass and a modest budget.

So Axegrinder is appealing to journalists up and down the land to send in nominations for the ugly buildings in which they work, to appear in a new charity calendar the team are proposing to put together in time for next Christmas. Please send your pictures to axegrinder@pressgazette.co.uk.

All proceeds will go to the charity SOS — Survivors of Sick Building Syndrome.

David and Posh go to Hollywood… and so do hopeful hacks

The impending departure of David and Victoria Beckham to Los Angeles has sent Fleet Street into a frenzy over how they will cover their American antics.

With budgets tight, tight-fisted newsdesks are more reluctant than ever to fork out on a daily basis for paparazzi pictures and words about the celebrity pair.

The fear of coughing up thousands of pounds a week to LA-based freelances has led to an unlikely U-turn over setting up offices overseas. Most papers can’t close them quickly enough at the moment.

News reaches me that The Sun, the News of the World, the Mirror and the Mail titles are looking at the idea of sending staffers over from London to cover the “David and Vicky go to Hollywood” saga.

“It is going to be the big story, with pictures of them being offered every day,” drools one executive. “But it’s looking like it could be a much cheaper option to staff LA with at least a photographer and a reporter from each paper, than to cough up thousands daily for agency pix.” Axegrinder advises staffers desperate to get to LA to get those applications in early.

Snowy headed Jon doesn’t like to see red

Axegrinder learns from the Channel 4 blog that representations have been made at an official level over the lack of ginger representation on the channel.

A representative of Caldor (Campaign Against the Discrimination Of Redheads) made contact over the weekend to lament the fact that comedian Avid Merrion seems to be the only redhead on Channel 4. They suggested Jon Snow could dye his hair red to raise awareness of Caldor’s campaign. An ever game Snow has responded on the blog, saying: “I’d be more than happy to oblige had I not already dyed my hair grey/white for gravitas!”

MoS stories spread thinly

Bad news for Mail on Sunday editor Peter Wright, who will doubtless be furious over the latest cock-ups in some of his overseas editions.

News reaches me from Axegrinder’s French bureau chief of some howlers in the edition sent to ex-pats who live among the garlic-guzzlers.

In the latest edition (14 January), two double-page spreads had appalling errors. The headline on page seven ran “…the stolen boys”.

It was impossible to tell what the first part of the headline or story said on page six, as the space was taken up by a giant ad for sofas — fronted by the bloke who used to be on EastEnders.

The second howler was on the spread on pages 42 and 43. The partial headline on 43 said: “…that haunts Dame Judi.” French readers will never know what haunts Dame Judi, as the first part of the headline and story on page 42 featured a furniture sale ad. I fear heads may roll.

Agency boss’s animal instincts

I’m grateful to the unlikely source of EasyJet’s in-flight mag for revealing something about shy and retiring paparazzi agency boss Darryn Lyons.

Big Pictures founder Lyons, he of the multi-coloured mullet hairdos, reveals how he got his first camera.

“I worked as a supermarket trolley boy after school for a couple of years to save up enough money to buy a Ricoh XR2S,” says Lyons.

And his first pictures? Well, it appears he was papping poor, defenceless creatures.

“I loved running around our farm in Geelong, taking pictures of animal footprints in the clay and spiders’ webs.

“Everyone and their dog was a guinea pig for my photography,” says the Aussie. How little things have changed.

Taking a shine to Quentin

Has Daily Mail parliamentary sketchwriter and theatre critic Quentin Letts been making enemies? I ask because the hack was sporting a giant shiner hidden behind dark glasses at Westminster.

Apparently, Letts claims it was done in a skiing accident. We believe you.

Never mind the bollocks, says judge

My sympathies to Sunday Herald journalist Alan Taylor who ended up in the law courts this week after nominating a fellow scribe for his Tartan Bollocks Award.

In Taylor’s Diary column, on 18 December, 2005, he had the temerity to suggest that Angus Macleod, Scottish political editor of The Times, deserved “the prestigious Tartan Bollocks Award, which is given to the Holyrood hack who has made the biggest gaffe of the year”.

It said that Macleod “like Alexander Graham Bell, justly renowned for his powers of invention, came close with his confident prediction that Jim Wallace would still be leading the Lib Dems in 2007.

“Mr Wallace repaid the faith shown in him by promptly announcing his retirement.” Fortunately for Taylor, Lord Macphail, sitting in the Court of Session, dismissed the action, pointing out that the piece was not on a news page, but in the diary.

He added: “In an earlier item, the reader is informed that one of the Scottish ministers had gone missing in the Amazonian rainforest and, inter alia, had been reading the Oor Wullie annual until she was found by anthropologists.

“In another, a statement by the First Minister is compared to an announcement by Julius Caesar. “In a third, Lord Birt is said to have changed his name to Lord Berk, and to have gone into hospital ‘to try and have his charisma by-pass op reversed’.” Lord Macphail goes on: “The ceremony is said to have been ‘star-studless’, a neologism intended to convey that it was not ‘star-studded’. “It is also said to have taken place ‘in an Edinburgh shebeen’, a word defined by counsel as ‘an illegal drinking den in which alcohol on which duty has not been paid is served’.

“Reference is then made to ‘the Hootsmon’s peedie political editor’, which the hypothetical reasonable reader would understand as a reference to the political editor of The Scotsman and as describing him as being small in stature. “That journalist is said to have written an old story about ‘Lord Forsyth of Blessed Memory’, which the same reader would understand as a reference to Lord Forsyth of Drumlean.

“Next comes the material concerning the pursuer (Mr Macleod). It is followed by a paragraph mentioning a ‘Gnat MSP’, meaning a Scottish Nationalist MSP, and by a final paragraph referring to ‘the embalmed readership of The Sunday Post’ and ‘David McLutchie-at-Straws’, a reference to Mr David McLetchie MSP.

“In my opinion no ordinary reasonable reader would have regarded any of these items as providing reliable factual information. “It would have been clear to him or her that the ‘Diary’ was not concerned to convey hard news or serious comment, such as no doubt appeared elsewhere in the paper.” Axegrinder wholeheartedly agrees.

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