In my Press Gazette column this month I referred to the fact that whatever you might think of the Express Group, it still (just) employs professional journalists who care deeply about what they do. As evidence of this, I cited a lengthy memo from one Express executive bemoaning slackness. I promised to run it in full on here, so here you go.
Last week’s Sunday Express was riddled with appalling, slapdash and lazy writing and subbing. The style sheets handed out were studiously ignored, as can be seen by the list attached to this e-mail. There were also two errors so horrendous they moved one reader to e-mail Martin Townsend to point them out. The kind of bilge submitted last week will not be tolerated any more. The rest of this e-mail is a list of the drivel that made it into the paper but doesn’t include the numerous dashes scattered liberally through copy, counties being abbreviated (Hants and Wilts were two that appeared), the headlines that were centred instead of set left, the ignorance about how the word ‘but’ should be used, the literal in one of the phoneline questions and the inability to grasp the simple idea that companies, organisations and political parties are referred to in the singular. My apologies to anyone who wasn’t in last week but look on it as a reminder of how not to do it. So here we go:
P2 – The lead begins with a name but the surname is not capped up. The stupid phrase ‘ahead of’ appears three times in the copy. We are then told ‘fewer than one in five voters were happy with Brown’s premiership’. That means none. The GCSEs story said ‘almost six in 10 pupils’. So is that five or four? Voters and pupils don’t come in fractions.
P3 – Why wasn’t there a drop cap start to the story? Those weekly paper staples ‘local residents’ and a ‘local fan’ put in an appearance.
P4 – The splash turn says Maddie was kidnapped. Really? I thought nobody knew what happened to her.
P5 – Someone is described as an ‘ex-pat’. At the very least that’s amateurish. Look, let’s make it really simple; if you don’t know what a word means or how it’s spelt, don’t f***ing use it.
P6 – The caption says ‘rail-soaked’ instead of rain-soaked.
P9 – The conflict in Georgia provides us with some classic bollocks. What is a ‘battle tank’? Does this mean wars now have referees who decide whether or not a tank is allowed to go into battle? Are all other tanks to be described as big metal cars for soldiers with a decorative gun on top? Also, what is a ‘ground invasion’? Is that the one that comes after a sky invasion?
P11 – Copy refers to ‘heroine addict Boyd’. Disgraceful. This is one of the errors pointed out to the editor. There’s also a reference to the LAPD. Not acceptable; do not assume everyone knows what it means.
P12 – The feature about Princess Margaret’s party paradise of Mustique says the island ‘floats in a blue-green ocean’. No island, not even a super-duper one like Mustique, floats. There are then two examples of that patronising phrase ‘of course’: ‘Colin Tennant knew, of course, that…’ and ‘The world’s press, of course….’ Read the bloody stylebook and what it says about ‘of course’. Finally, did we really need to tell readers twice that Margaret was the Queen’s sister?
P14 – The Focus starts with a name but again the surname is not capped up while the word taking the second drop cap is all lower case. Ahead of appears again and what the hell is an ‘empty dwelling management order’ when it’s around?
P16-17 – The lead intro talks about the murder of a ‘newlywed English couple in Antigua’. Since when has South Wales been in England? To make matters worse, the third par says the husband was flown home to Wales! For f***’s sake!
P18 – The Fergie and Andy story says they’re in the Scottish Highlands, probably to make clear they’re not in the English, Welsh or Lithuanian bloody Highlands.
P21 – The comment standfirst has the nonexistent word ‘parenting’ and ’spokesperson’ in it. It names the piece’s author as a bloke and then calls HIM a spokesperson. Utter sh*te.
P22 – In the Ulrika Jonsson quote, what is a ‘marrow fat pea’?
P23 – Virginia’s lead talks about women working ‘long hours in the office’ and later tells us women are ‘unhappy both in the office and in the home’. So, tough sh*t to the thousands of women who read our paper and don’t work in an office.
P25 – Neil Hamilton says: ‘In 1908, the last London Olympics’ organising committee…’ And there was me thinking the last one was the 1948 committee.
P30 – At the end of the Dando story there’s a reference to a ‘master assassin’ being captured. Earlier we’d been told how he failed to kill someone with FIVE bullets. Not so masterful then.
P37 – The game poachers story talks about ‘organised’ gangs cashing in on the culinary revolution sparked by celebrity chefs. Does that mean all the disorganised gangs are kicking themselves about their lack of a formal hierarchy then?
P38 – Instalment is spelt wrong.
P40-41 – ‘Leading British male Tim Don.’ NO, in the Sunday Express they’re men or women.
P45 – Wellbeing is NOT hyphenated. What does ‘confronted one of the them’ mean? There is then a reference to Pope’s Tower, where ‘Alexander Pope lived and worked for two years’. Oh come on, you must know; that 17th-century poet who everyone is talking about in the pub.
P46 – The standfirst says: ‘When a teenage concert hall worker snapped pictures of visiting bands, he had no idea that, 40 years on, his dusty collection would provide a valuable insight into Britain’s musical golden age…’ No sh*t, Sherlock. That will be because, like the rest of us, he couldn’t tell the sodding future. The copy mentions ‘Britain’s then vibrant live music scene’. Was that just after Britain’s vibrant dead music scene then? Once again an idiotic use of the word live. There is mention of a picture showing the Beatles and Billy J Kramer having a laugh with Susan Maughan yet the picture on the page purports to show the Beatles and Billy J Kramer having a laugh with Elkie Brookes.
P48 – The foreign lead has reopened and re-opened in the space of six pars. It’s NOT hyphenated. The copy says Rockefeller’s Chichester alias is connected to a double murder in Los Angeles, then says it’s his Cross alias and then goes back to his Chichester alias.
P49 – The Putin caption has the last word missing.
P54 – There is a reference to a ’stay-at-home mum’. No, it’s mother. The copy constantly switches between calling the author by her first name and surname. The main caption names five people but there are six people in the picture.
P58 – In the Eric Idle spread ‘of course’ rears its useless head yet again. What is this paragraph on about then: “There’s even a Bob Dylan-like character complete with guitar, harmonica and dark glasses who Idle plays himself. He comes in to help Brian talk about individuals,” Idle explains. Eh?
P60 – Rehash is not hyphenated but it is in this copy. Later on we have ‘…which may tie-in nicely with…’ That doesn’t need a hyphen.
P61 – Opera copy says ‘around 30…’ No, it’s ABOUT 30.
P69 – Copy refers to Liam Finn’s dad and Natt Weller’s dad but SX style is father. Abigail Hopkins is then quoted thus: “I didn’t have tonnes and tonnes of money.” Do we know for a fact this woman talks in metric measurements then? F***ing ridiculous.
P83 – The blurb for P86 refers to ‘an historical tour’. No, that would be a historical tour.
P84 – Neil Hamilton writes: ‘See Venice and die, the saying goes.’ Er, no it f***ing doesn’t, as our angry reader was quick to tell the editor.
Stop writing this drivel and subs, stop letting it through.