Axegrinder 31.07.2006

‘Tour of terror’ leaves Sun man in the shade

The breathless copy filed by The Sun's Nick Parker from Lebanon has caused much hilarity among his Fleet Street rivals.

The veteran foreign correspondent regaled readers last week (21 July) with his and snapper Roger Crump's "tour of terror" amid the rubble of south Beirut.

"My invitation to Hezbollah's heartland came after I discovered the mobile number of the Islamic terror group's shadowy ‘PR chief' known only as Hussein," Parker writes excitedly.

The Sun hack adds: "After greeting me in perfect English, he said simply: ‘Meet me at Hadi Nasrallah Street, Dahiye, 2pm.'"

Boldly, the Sun duo head off — only to discover they have been "lured into Hezbollah's first major publicity offensive of the war".

Thankfully, this does not stop them recording, at length, the obligatory images of "broken dolls, a cuddly panda and teddy bears in the rubble".

But their solitary-sounding tour by the "shadowy Hussein" is at odds with the accounts of the "dozens and dozens" of other hacks also on the trip.

The Mirror's Jon Clements happily reveals Parker's mystery man is "Hezbollah's spin-doctor, American-educated Hussein Naboulsi, 32, who guided us". On the charabanc for The Times is an equally well informed Danny McGrory with "Hussain Nabulsi, Hezbollah's spokesman".

Also on board is Express hack Padraic Flanagan and snapper Tim Clarke with "Hezbollah's propaganda chief Hussein Naboulsi".

Axegrinder wonders what will the "shadowy news chief" in Wapping's war zone known only as "Rebekah" make of it all.

Westminster is set for mayhem at Millbank

Chaos reigns among lobby journalists at Westminster who have been up to their ears in packing crates.

They are under orders to leave their cherished (and free) offices in the Press Gallery next week while the roof at the House of Commons is repaired over the summer.

The hacks will be housed temporarily over the road in the same Millbank office block used as a Westminster base by broadcasters Sky News and the BBC.

It means most of Fleet Street will be housed in one open-plan office. That's very bad news for the political editors who require small planets to adequately house their giant egos.

Luckily, they are consoling themselves with the fact it will soon be just a short walk downstairs to pick up their lucrative appearance fees for a bit of political punditry and the odd paper review on the telly.

Maybe Pearson should give us all a break

Star columnist Allison Pearson must have struck a chord with thousands of Daily Mail readers with her thoughts on family summer holidays (19 July).

"Like millions of my fellow Britons, I will be heading off next week for the traditional Family Summer Holiday and suddenly I find myself wondering: what happened to holidays?

"Holidays never used to be like this," she muses.

Pearson says the strain of the FSH now leaves most of her female chums "certifiably deranged" by the pressure and stress of the annual event in her piece headlined "Holidays? Give us women a break."

But Axegrinder hears that the only people who need a break on extremely well-rewarded Pearson's summer jaunts are the nannies she takes along to do all the work.

Climate change is plane crazy

If anyone can beat The Independent for "the end of the world is nigh" scare stories, it has to be the BBC's David Shukman.

The corporation's environment correspondent jetted off on a 9,000-mile trip to the Antarctic in January to warn about global warming.

This month, Shukman and his crew were flying around the Amazon rainforests as they compiled yet more reports on climate change.

Has anyone told "air miles" Shukman that crossing the globe on a jumbo isn't exactly the greenest activity on the planet?

Enquirer says sorry as Field returns to fold

The Mail on Sunday's editor, Peter Wright, and his legal department will be taking a keen interest in two messy cases involving the National Enquirer recently.

 

First, the downmarket US rag was forced to apologise to Britney Spears for wrongly claiming her marriage to failed hip-hop star Kevin Federline was over.

Then, the gossip mag was again forced into a humiliating apology coupled with a payment for damages to Kate Hudson.

It had wrongly suggested the actress had an eating disorder and was "looking like skin and bones".

The mag's editor at the time was the soon-to-be fired Paul Field who — to the delight of Associated staff — has found a bolthole as an executive editor at the MoS.

Why Piper told 3am girls to go and whistle

One showbiz hack who will not be joining the Daily Mirror's divine 3am girls Eva Simpson and Caroline Hedley at any price is Dean Piper.

The girls informally approached Piper — who used to work on the column yonks ago, but now pens his own entertaining column for Closer magazine — to rejoin the paper.

The duo are still waiting to hear from Piper, but I'm sad to reveal that he's told friends (of Axegrinder): "I wouldn't go back there in a million years."

Meanwhile, I learn that the girls' first choice was Gordon Smart, who is deputy editor of The Sun's Bizarre column. Smart is considered extremely, erm, smart.

So smart, in fact, that he is well aware that he is being groomed as Victoria Newton's successor.

The prospect of having his own column on The Sun is far more appealing than sharing a byline with Simpson and Hedley.

BEST not to tell axe-wielding Telegraph chief executive Murdoch MacLennan the new nickname that staff have given him — Murdo Most Foul.

BBC editor has guts to lay down the law

THERE'S nothing like a war to send the suits at the Beeb into a frenzy of hand wringing over ensuring the right words are used in all news bulletins.

When does an incursion become an invasion?

Who are the terrorists and who are the freedom fighters?

But the picture is a little clearer, thanks to a marvellous edict on house style from Tim Bailey, editor of Radio 4's six o'clock news bulletin.

With regard to reporting from what's left of the Lebanon, he has ruled: "Buildings are evacuated, not people.

People are ‘moved from their homes’.

It’s something quite different when people evacuate.”

How delicately put.

Porn plea

"I'M now sweaty, knackered, and — like a skinny male porn star after a day shooting Fatties On Top — I have nothing left to give."

That's how Daily Star columnist Joe Mott signs off his blog before taking a 10-day break in France with a fellow, unnamed, showbiz hack.

I'm sure his boss Richard Desmond, a man not unacquainted with the world of pornography, would approve.

Share price no barrier for Sly

Was the recently-published MediaGuardian 100 ever so slightly flawed? I ask because Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, was ranked at 32 — exactly the same position she occupied last year.

However, according to the league table, the share price of Trinity Mirror was £4.50, and heading further south to the dismay of shareholders and staff alike.

A year earlier, when The Guardian published its 2005 list of the top 100 players, the share price was £6.15.

According to Axegrinder's dodgy maths, that means Trinity Mirror has managed to lose a considerable £717 million in value over the past 12 months. Surely Bailey's ranking should have taken a similar step backwards?

Will it be third time lucky for news editor?

It must be an exhausting job working under Sunday Express editor Martin Townsend. The paper is on its third news editor in as many months.

The first was James "Mad Dog" Murray who moved on to "special projects", but remained on the title.

He was followed by the paper's crime man Keith Perry, who did a brief stint in charge before fleeing abroad.

Now Stephen Rigley is in the chair. He was hopefully (until now) unaware that newsroom colleagues are taking bets on how long he will last.

Welcome to Carany Wahrf

The internal staff list at The Daily Telegraph makes interesting reading.

Fiona McPhillips has added the following entry to let hacks know of her arrival at Canary Wharf: "Joining as Deputy Features Ediotr. I have just finished Maternity Leave and eight years at the Daily Mail."

Hope her features ediotring is better than her spelling.

Does this mean that Harry has deep pockets?

Let's go back to Icon magazine, the ludicrously glossy publication produced by former England footballer Jamie Redknapp and his wife Louise Redknapp (and published by, erm, Redknapp Publishing).

Axegrinder has been enjoying the views of the mag's motoring correspondent, a certain Harry Redknapp (father of Jamie, uncle of Frank Lampard, owner of Chelsea restaurant, Scalini).

He's assigned to test drive the Bentley Continental Flying Spur and is over the moon because it's "just a different class of motor altogether".

"I'd recommend Mercs to anybody," Harry tells the readers (footballers), "but when you got in this car it was the difference between the Champions League and the Premier League."

He points out that Jamie drives a two-door Bentley Continental GT and Harry thinks it is "lovely", but "as I'm pushing on towards 60" he found Jamie's version "a little bit too lively and a bit awkward to get in and out of".

Turning all nostalgic, he reflects on the good old days when he was a young player in the first team at West Ham.

"A lot of the players still used to get the bus to training every day. As we got a bit older, one or two of us had little cars, but it was probably only Bobby Moore who had a really nice car at the time. I think he had a Jag…"

But this is a motoring article with a massive difference, and other motoring correspondents who dream of owning the cars they test drive might turn green with envy when they learn what happens next… "My wife said, ‘Why not treat yourself to one?'" says Harry, casually.

"Comfort is a big selling point for me. That is why, after driving one, I've decided I am going to buy a Bentley. I was that impressed with it."

Not only that — he has "told everyone I know… to go out and get one".

Bentley must be chuffed. Earlier in the mag, there's a full-page advert for the (you know what's coming) Continental Flying Spur: "poise, performance, passion".

And only £120,000.

Painful memories of the week

The Sunday Times in South Africa is celebrating its centenary and looking back at some of its finest moments.

One of them, a sensational story from 1987, will rake up some old emotions for The Mail on Sunday's Sue Reid.

Reid had bought up the extraordinary story of a 48-year-old grandmother, Pat Antony, who was pregnant with triplets as a surrogate mother for her own daughter.

She would become the first woman ever to give birth to her own grandchildren.

Reid had stumped up the figure of £50,000 — a massive sum 19 years ago — for the exclusive story and picture rights.

She was keeping Antony in a secure location until the birth. But she reckoned without the resourcefulness of a local reporter, Charmain Naidoo, who not only tracked down the expectant mother, but got also pictures of the babies, thanks to a nurse lowering a camera in a bucket tied to a piece of rope out of the hospital window.

Naidoo recalls: "We scooped the The Mail on Sunday and they were livid."

Appropriate hack attire of the week

In last Monday's piece discussing appropriate attire for hacks, Guardian columnist Kim Fletcher took a swipe at the wardrobe habits of one of the paper's team.

"It is true that one of the male Guardian staff arrives for work in a skirt, but he works on the website, where such behaviour is regarded as normal. Anyway, it is technically a kilt."

But who is the sartorially skirted staffer? Axegrinder can reveal he is none other than Guardian blog guru, Ben Hammersley.

One item from Hammersley's wardrobe is an olive twill number with large pockets suitable for lugging iPods, flash memory and other gadgetry.

The "Utilikilt" is celebrated on Hammersley's blog under the heading "because the last man to call it a skirt got kilt".

Hammersley lives most of the time in Florence. If Fletcher finds the kilt puzzling, what do fashion-conscious Italians make of it?

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