Dog watches dog 02.09.05

DESPERATE AND DIM – IT’S SUMMER’S SILLIEST STORIES

In Norway, apparently, it’s called the cucumber season – the holiday
period when newspapers find themselves scrabbling about for ways to
fill their pages, and the unlikeliest of tales are promoted to
prominence on the news agenda.

Here we have a less oblique name for it. So now that August is over,
the kennel can finally reveal its exclusive, groundbreaking,
painstaking research into the 2005 Silly Season.

To qualify, stories had to appear in the news section – we’ve ruled out gossip columns, for obvious reasons.

Indeed,
stories involving celebrities changing hairstyles, wearing bikinis,
falling off horses or having cellulite were banned on grounds of space.
We also ignored mid-market picture spreads involving animals looking
either cute or ludicrous, and competitions to find the country’s
fastest, smallest or ugliest pets.

The stories had to be the sort
that generally appear only in August. Marks were awarded not only for
the banal nature of the story, but for the page prominence they were
given in the newspaper. Most importantly, they had to have that Silly
Season air of desperation about them.

Surveys
proved a rich hunting ground (“The bigger a woman’s boobs, the worse
her lover performs, a survey has found”: The Sun, 15 August), as did
news stories involving animals getting into scrapes or providing photo
opportunities.

Favourites from this section included: “Penguin is
made Colonel-in-Chief” (The Times and others, 18 August); “Who ate
all the nuts?” (Three-quarter page in the Daily Mail, 12 August, about
a squirrel getting stuck in a bird feeder); and “The puss in
boot” (half page Daily Express, 11 August, about a cat that got
stuck in a car).

The Express also brought us that age-old standby
“Jaws alert on British beaches” (12 August), which included the
following superb advice: “The best thing to do if you see a [shark] is
get out of the water.”

Along similar lines is another Express
half-pager, on 5 August, “Great British croc hunt” which speculated
that an unseen crocodile could be “terrorising” the waterways of
the Olympic Village site in London. “It is more likely to be a large
pike,” its expert concluded.

Sadly The Sunday Times’s ludicrously
overblown full page featuring a picture of the Prime Minister on
holiday, “Do my moobs look big in this?”, had to be ruled out because
it appeared in the Focus section rather than in news.

A similar
fate befell the full-page 15 August Daily Mail feature “Goodbye old
friend”, in which Rory Knight Bruce (who?) wrote 1,200 words about
selling his horse. “I cannot exaggerate the life we shared,” he sobs.
Oh yes you can, Rory.

Another Mail page 13 special six days
earlier, “Who built the moon?”, was probably the daftest headline of
the season, while The Sun devoted its entire page 24 to “How to speak
Furby” on 11 August, scoring high in the desperation stakes with the
giveaway line “launched two weeks ago” in par two.

But as ever it
was those Silly Season stalwarts, the ubiquitous nameless “scientific
experts” who provided countless “research” details to rescue desperate
news editors.

The Times staked an early claim, on 4 August, with
“Don’t badger me tonight darling, it’s a full moon” – a halfbaked,
half-page extravaganza on badgers’ preference for sex on dark
nights.

The Independent hit back 11 days later, with a riveting
report on how a selection of bumblebees (“according to a study”)n
seemed to prefer a van Gogh painting over other pictures. “Sunflowers
are the bee’s knees in the insect world” took up the whole of page 3.

But
topping our Silly Season chart is the story provided by “UK scientists
peering into the skies” that not only made The Sun’s splash on 10
August, but pages 4 and 5 too. “Victor Meldrew found in space”. No, we
didn’t belieeeeve it either.

Send your own nominations to dog@pressgazette.co.uk

The big Cocks/Cox cock-up

Dog is in the dock after last week’s Campaign for Real Exclusives
item featured The People’s follow-up of a Harborough Mail story, the
last line of which suggested it had got the spelling wrong of
protagonist Ben Cox.

People reporter David Brown contacts us to confirm that his surname
is indeed Cocks, and that the Harborough Mail had got it wrong.

“We can also claim that a large part of the story was INDEED exclusive – well, certainly the picture was anyway.

“Perhaps certain people ought to get their own facts right before accusing others of making such basic cock-ups.”

Quite right, David. The kennel has issued the necessary P45s to its staff.

FAIR WEATHER FRIEND

Speaking of real exclusives, Saturday’s Daily Star is definitely not
the first to splash on ‘Phew what a shocker! – It’s gonna be a hot and
sunny Bank Holiday’.

But it is surely the only one to label the story ‘Exclusive’.

 

From the Gravesend Reporter. What do you do when your headline doesn’t fit? Kern it to within an inch of its life.

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