Bored one evening, I counted up the times I had met Piers Morgan

Is the world ready for another diary from a former Trinity Mirror editor? Alison Hastings thinks so…

I can’t believe Piers Morgan has beaten me to it with his bestselling diary.

When I left the editor’s chair three years ago (admittedly not quite
such a big chair and in not quite such a dramatic fashion), I had toyed
with writing an explosive account of my fascinating six years at the
helm of the Evening Chronicle.

What held me back was the fact
that I did not receive a huge (or actually, any) payoff and therefore
had to earn a living, making it difficult to squeeze the book in
between work and the kids.

Plus, I had not written a diary as I
went along and wondered if I would remember all the juicy bits – or any
bits at all, come to that.

But having read Piers’s great book,
The Insider, (a snip at £9.97 at my local Tesco, and definitely worth
reading, whatever jealous media types say), and learning that it was
not strictly contemporaneous, I am having second thoughts.

I did
jot down the odd note on the back of a flatplan every now and again,
and stashed them, I think, in a box somewhere in the attic. And I am
sure if I look at some back copies of the papers things will come back
to me.

Of course this may not be enough to convince publishers to
pay me half a million plus pounds, so if anyone out there can remember
anything that might read well, do let me know.

I’m hoping to make it fairly accurate so that those cheeky chaps at Viz don’t write something pointing out my mistakes.

They
have had a bee in their bonnet ever since we sent some of our
merchandisers to heckle one of their Christmas annual book launches at
the Bigg Market, just round the corner from the office. They pretended
to take it with a wry smile, but I am sure they would go through my
diary with a finetooth comb.

Below are some example entries, which I would welcome feedback on.

They
may bear a passing resemblance to Piers’s book, but that is
understandable as we were both made editors of big titles at an
embarrassingly early age (although I don’t like to dwell on that), went
to Harlow within a year of each other, worked for Trinity Mirror – and
he even shares the same birthday as my mum.

MAY 1996, BUT PROBABLY NOT IN THE LAST WEEK AS I TENDED TO BE OFF FOR THE HALF TERM

The first Evening Chronicle Good Neighbour Awards took place at
quite a posh local hotel. It wasn’t a hugely glitzy event, what with
all the normal readers being there, and I didn’t manage to get it
televised, but we gave it some welly in the paper the next day.

A fairly old, widowed Geordie rock star was our only celebrity
guest. He took a shine to one of our winners, Edna Scroggins, who was a
shining light in the community despite losing a limb after being
knocked down by an ice-cream van on her estate.

The rock star wanted to know all about her and exclaimed: “She’s quite a girl, isn’t she? I like the way she talks.”

I just had a feeling they might get together and even get married and have a baby – a boy – or maybe a girl.

A brilliant, unforgettable day.

DECEMBER 1999, IN BETWEEN THE EXEC CHRISTMAS PARTY AT POSH HOTEL AND STAFF DO AT GROTTY PUB

Had lunch with one of our biggest motor advertisers. The meal was
fine until the end, when he pulled out an envelope that contained
pictures of him nearly naked draped over some of his second-hand cars.

“They were taken at one of my car lots near an industrial estate,” he explained matter-of-factly.

I
started to feel uncomfortable – these weren’t accidental shots of him
in a pair of swimming trunks on holiday. In one of them, I even saw his
Salesman of the Month lurking in the background, looking on proudly.

I was truly at a loss as to what to say and was genuinely embarrassed – for me, and for him.

Then
he suddenly stared me in the eye and asked: “Are you a good editor?” It
was genuinely a car crash moment, which he would have liked as, no
doubt, he would have tried to sell me a replacement. I wanted to make
my excuses and leave, but he was a big advertiser so I just pretended
not to hear him and ordered a coffee.

SOME TIME IN 2002, OR IT MAY HAVE BEEN THE YEAR BEFORE AS I’D HAD ANOTHER BABY BY THEN AND MY MEMORY WAS REALLY PLAYING UP

Bored one evening, after making dinner, clearing it up and putting
all the kids to bed, I counted up all the times I had come across Piers
Morgan, editor of my sister title, The Mirror. The result was
astonishing really, or slightly shocking, depending on your viewpoint.

I had seen him on TV 35 times, heard him on radio 116 times, seen
his picture in the paper 412 times, actually been in the same London
Eye pod as him at a strange Trinity Mirror do, plus shared some floor
space at the PCC’s 10th birthday party.

That’s a lot of time with arguably Britain’s most important person…

Enough of diaries and flights of fancy; let’s get back to the present day.

The
annual News Society Newspaper Sales and Promotions Conference, held
last week in Birmingham, has had a name change and slight makeover.

Now
called the Circulation, Editorial and Promotions Awards, it had more
editorial presentations, and subsequently more hacks, in the packed
conference hall.

Its annual awards night always attracts a fair
few editors hoping to pick up a prize for circulation success,
promotional creativity or editorial excellence.

For those who
missed the results, but want to have a look at who and why someone has
been judged the best in the industry, it would be worth getting hold of
copies of several papers.

They include the Lincolnshire Echo
(newspaper of the year), the Glasgow Evening Times and North Shropshire
Chronicle (campaigning newspapers), the Jewish Chronicle (three
awards), Western Daily Press (design and layout), and any of Archant’s
brilliant magazines.

For the second year running, the team at
Teesside picked up the sales promotion campaign of the year, plus an
evening paper circulation award.

And it’s also worth finding out why the South Wales Argus continues to buck the trend and add readers.

There
were some really creative uses of other media to promote regional
newspapers, with papers such as the Newcastle Evening Chronicle,
Brighton Argus, Aberdeen Press and Journal and Sheffield Star getting
plaudits.

This might look like a huge list to subscribe to (and
there are even more worthy winners – check the Newspaper Society
website), but just think about it – you will be able to nick all their
ideas and help their circulation at the same time.

Alison Hastings is a media consultant and former editor of the Evening Chronicle, Newcastle. ajh@alisonhastings.demon.co.uk

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