Dog watches dog 22.05.03

Toilet decoration or drama prop

Denizens of the kennel have become instant fans of BBC One’s Sunday-night drama series State of Play, not least for the rarity value of seeing journalists displayed in a vaguely realistic manner on the small screen.

And our ears pricked up even more during the scene in which the MP played by David Morrissey finds a Journalist of the Year award in the filing cabinet of his old mate Cal McAffrey, the broadsheet journalist played by John Simm. That certificate had a very authentic ring to it.

Some investigative journalism – worthy of McAffrey himself – reveals that it was indeed the real McCoy: one of our own bona fide British Press Awards gongs, belonging to Guardian chief reporter Kevin Maguire, who acted as a consultant on the series and won Scoop of the Year when he was on the Daily Mirror. “Originally they wanted it to be hanging on the wall,” says Maguire. “We told them no self-respecting hack would put it there, unless it was in the toilet.” Prior to filming, a number of the actors spent time in The Guardian’s offices.

Apparently, a BBC source explains, The Times newsroom didn’t quite have the atmosphere they were looking for. “It was a bit too much like a call centre,” apparently.

Guardian rebuff is unappealing

The good news is that the St Bride’s Church Appeal is racing towards its £3.5m target.

There have been some fantastically generous donors to the appeal for the journalists’ church, which needs the funds for 200 new seats as well as to maintain the choir and fabric of the world-famous building off Fleet Street.

Dog hears that among the most generous are Rupert Murdoch, the Daily Mail and General Trust and – despite its financial problems – Reuters. Others that have helped the appeal raise £2.25m since its launch back in March include the Scottish Provincial Press, Johnston Press, the Yattendon Trust, Trinity Mirror, Telegraph Group and the Press Association.

But some other publishers have been a bit slower off the mark. Sir Anthony O’Reilly’s Independent Newspapers is said to be thinking about a donation and a meeting is planned with Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond.

Astonishingly, The Guardian has refused to even meet with the St Bride’s fundraisers to discuss a donation.

Could this be the same Guardian which ran a story back in January about the Express NUJ chapel making a £500 donation to St Bride’s in protest at their bosses’ refusal to stump up any cash?

Maybe it is time for The Guardian journalists to try the same tactic and shame their management.

Frank and to the point

The recent brouhaha over the cleaning of Michelangelo’s statue of David, coupled with last week’s revelations from Frank Sinatra’s tailor, reminds Jeffrey Blyth of the wedding in Italy, in the Sixties, of Anita Ekberg – known then as the “Swedish Sex Goddess” -and British actor Anthony Steel.

Mirror showbiz editor Donald Zec was best man and several other Fleet Street journalists covering the story were roped in as witnesses. Leaving Florence town hall after the ceremony, an exuberant Ekberg glanced up at the fully endowed naked statue and declared: “My! Almost as big as Frank Sinatra’s.”

Says Blyth: “In those days, of course, we never could have got that into print – but maybe nowadays.”

Criminal ignorance

Bob Taylor, star of BBC One’s Murder Game and ex-top cop, is an old hand at dealing with the media, having notched up 31 years’ police service and been involved in 150 murder hunts.

He is known as “Mr 100 per cent” for detecting and convicting all 50-plus murder and serious crime cases he headed. Taylor now has a career as a media commentator and playing the chief in the Saturday night show.

Finding himself facing some of the most ruthless killers, sharp-nosed barristers and judges, he was rarely lost for words – but a recent radio interview left him dumbfounded.

The researcher for a BBC radio show was quizzing him about his track record. Taylor talked about his many investigations, including the Yorkshire Ripper case.

“Oh,” she replied quizzically when he mentioned the UK’s most infamous murderer. “Was he ever arrested?”

His face was said to be a picture.

Nigel Harden

With all the excitement about the new series of Big Brother, and the prospect of all those new, er, celebrities to get their teeth into, the journalists at Heat could be forgiven for taking their eye off the ball. That must be the explanation for this rare slip that appalled EastEnders fans in last week’s edition.

Albert Square aficionados assure Dog that the actor’s name is actually Nigel Harman. Maybe the slip was down to the fact that he plays Dirty Den’s son.

 

As the battle to be named European City of Culture in 2008 hots up, a few dirty tricks are being pulled out of the bag. Last week, the Oxford Mail splashed on a story about the Oxford Balloon Fiesta – and the fact that one of the balloons involved was promoting Bristol’s rival City of Culture bid. Meanwhile, inside the paper, reporter Nigel Hanson wrote about his skyward adventures in one of the balloons. But in fact, it was not until he was off the ground that he realised he was being taken for a ride in the rival Bristol balloon. After landing, his pilot rang a Bristol radio station, trumpeting the fact that he’d “captured the Oxford press”.

 

While pushing his new book, Letters to a US President – based on a series of open letters to President Bill Clinton – Bucks freelance David Kavanagh contacted The Washington Times. The newsroom sniffily suggested that he contact customer service manager Sharon L Hite by e-mail at shite@washingtontimes.com.

“Seemed a bit whiffy, so I backed off,” reports Kavanagh.

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