Penises put to the sword by Wapping smut police
Investigative writer Brian Deer got a tantalising glimpse into decency benchmarks at Rupert Murdoch’s flagship newspapers when his Sunday Times Magazine story on the pharmaceutical industry was judged too smutty by company software. His report was automatically deleted under a profanity “points system” introduced by Wapping management.
Deer’s transgression was to make excessive sexual references in his final copy, crossing a threshold invoking expungement.
“I just don’t get it,” Deer said. “The rough draft went through fine, but when I updated the text a couple of weeks later, the system shut me out.
It’s true I added three erections and doubled the number of penises, but I’d cut three genitals, and words containing ‘sex’ actually declined – from 80 to 75.”
Systems staff at News International’s HQ confirmed that all copy e-mailed into Europe’s biggest newspaper plant was scanned for evidence of profanity and, if deemed unsuitable, deleted without notice.
“Hot” keywords are allocated numerical values and when the score hits bingo, the story is killed. “This is not the first time I’ve heard this,” an engineer commented. “I can tell you they’ve been having problems at The Sun and the News of the World.”
At The Sunday Times, tempers became frayed over Deer’s six-page investigation, which probes alleged new categories of women’s health disorder, when revised copy was e-mailed scores of times over three days, but never arrived with subs.
Alarmed by the prospect of losing his cover story, magazine editor Robin Morgan ordered the writer to “stop being a dick, we can’t fuck around”, in an outgoing e-mail, which was uncensored.
Disaster was only averted when the 5,000-word story was finally mailed to the personal address of a friend of subeditor Mel Bradman.
In addition to the extra male organs (two of which may have attracted a proximity penalty by appearing in the same sentence) careful analysis of the revised report also found “vaginal engorgement”, thought to be a no-no in the Murdoch stable.
Prickly departure for editor Waddell
NewDaily Record editor Bruce Waddell finally started his job at the stroke of midnight last Thursday. He has been on gardening leave from the Scottish Sun for the past six months after some pretty nasty legal exchanges.
Just to prove that his gardening skills had indeed improved during his enforced break, Waddell returned his company Audi back to the Sun’s Glasgow plant with a little present in the rear seat.
Nestling in a tub of manure was a five foot tall, phallus shaped cactus protruding from two prickly testicles.
Bruce was heard muttering something along the lines of “They don’t like it up ’em”. Ouch!
One more ‘Street of Shame’ column
Mirror group political editor David Seymour felt the magic of Fleet Street coursing through his fingertips last week as he wrote the first leader column to be written from the “Street of Shame” in 14 years.
He had been speaking at a Media Trust meeting at The Guardian’s Newsroom when Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan rang wanting a new editorial on the intelligence and security committee’s attack on Blair.
“I had my laptop with me but could not think where to set it up – until I realised I was near Fleet Street,” said Seymour. “So I went there, got a table by the window in the King & Keys, and wrote the leader.”
Dog consulted the Oracle, Dr Dennis Griffiths, to discover that the previous “last leader written in Fleet Street” must have been the final one when the Express moved out to Blackfriars on 17 November, 1989.
Seymour added: “The last leader written in the Fleet Street area was probably me, when the Mirror moved to Canary Wharf [from Holburn Circus] in 1994.”
Who the Hell-iker are you?
As Nigel Dempster prepares to call it a day, his onetime deputy Adam Helliker, left, faces the slightly tricky situation of meeting a number of celebrities he has often written about – at his own wedding on Saturday.
His bride-to-be, Lucy Naylor – a speech writer for the shadow defence team at the House of Lords – has invited a veritable deluge of Dempster Diary figures, including Lords King and Vivian from her department, Lord Lloyd-Webber, Jilly Cooper, Lloyd Grossman, Peter Stringfellow, Lord Hanson, Lord Brocket, the Marquis of Blandford, Victoria Hervey and the Countess of Wessex.
“It’s a little unnerving,” said the brave Helliker, who now has his own Mail on Sunday column alongside – and indeed, in front of – Dempster’s page.
“I wanted a quiet wedding, but Lucy has turned it into something of a grand affair. There are one or two guests I hardly know and I just hope I’ve never written anything too unkind about them!” Helliker, 44 and Naylor, 34, met in Barbados when he was doing a Dempster column from the Caribbean island. Will Dempster be at the wedding? “Unlikely,” said Helliker, gently.
No room at the inn
Double booking has long been a tactic of the airline industry but it has apparently crept into the field of PR.
The Observer invited more hacks and assorted media luvvies to the launch party of its new supplement, Music Monthly, than ultra trendy nightclub The Hospital was licensed to hold.
They no doubt gambled that many wouldn’t turn up, but with recent Mercury award-winning DJ Dizzee Rascal on the bill it turned into the hottest ticket in town last Thursday.
To their horror, Fleet Street’s trendiest were forced to form a queue as the club operated a one-in, one-out policy.
With free champagne aplenty on the inside the prospect of anyone leaving early looked dim and most stomped off home looking decidedly unimpressed.