Grey Cardigan: 6 July 2007

NOW HERE’S a funny thing. A female reporter on the Daily Star legs it to an industrial tribunal because the newsdesk asked her to dress up in a corset and knickers like those worn by Posh Spice and wander around, presumably near builders, to “gauge public response”.

Yes, it’s a lazy page-filler, but hardly out of character for a red top. And should we support the girl’s objection to being used in this way? On balance, yes we should. If she wasn’t happy doing the job, then I’m sure there were half-a-dozen brazen harpies jostling for position who would have done it. Well that’s my experience of the Star’s female staff anyway. Game girls, particularly at the Christmas party.

But wait – what’s this? Elsewhere in the tabloids lurks one Wersha Bharadwa, a particularly fetching young lady who is instructed by her newsdesk to see if she can exploit the celeb-crazed Bollywood film industry by turning herself into an alleged movie superstar in a matter of days. This involves flirting outrageously with various influential men while disporting herself in a revealing black dress “cut to the thigh” – think Liz Hurley without the safety pins.

So which newspaper subjected one of its female staff to this demeaning and degrading task? Step forward, The Guardian, who ran the resultant piece across three pages of the G2 section.

The mind truly boggles.

MEANWHILE, one of my snouts at the Press Gazette Regional Newspaper Awards tells me that a rumour was circulating regarding some kind of demo by the abject NUJ because of my comments here a couple of weeks ago regarding the employment of women of child-bearing age in the newsroom.

Of course, it didn’t happen. It never does where the NUJ are concerned. But is it really their role to agitate against freedom of speech? They might not agree with what I had to say – although a bursting inbox of messages from aggrieved males who have to cover for the fecund females obviously does – but I would expect them to defend to the death my right to say it.

Perhaps they would have been better employed checking out the origin of the orange segments in the pudding at the lunch, which, according to my source, might possibly have been Israeli.

THE MADELEINE McCann saga has seen some pretty desperate attempts to keep the story rolling, but I do think that The Sun indulged in some serious barrel-bottom scraping with its “Maddie Tot With Gipsies” page lead.

This piece of nonsense was based on the “evidence” of a 66-year-old South African tourist who suddenly, three weeks later, recalled seeing “a fairskinned little blonde girl in the back of a horse-drawn cart”. Further to that, a woman in the cart “quickly covered the youngster’s face with a shawl”

before “an impeccably dressed blonde woman collected the child from the older dark-skinned woman who had been carrying her”.

This story is wrong on so many levels that you have to wonder how it ever made it into print. We have a single source, who chose to contact The Sun rather than the Portugese police; no supporting evidence; and most damningly, the fact that no other newspaper cared to publish it – are we really so desperate that the folk law fantasies of passing loonies are now considered fair game?

Meanwhile, Gerry McCann flies into London and immediately loses his wallet to a pickpocket.

I’M PUZZLED by the Evening Standard’s strapline on its London car bomb story: “Bid to kill 1,700 in West End.” That figure is very specific, so where did it come from?

Did a terrorism expert carefully calculate the possible impact of the bomb, taking into account the explosive cone of petrol, gas and nails, the height and vulnerability of buildings and an accurate assessment of the number of potential victims on the streets at that time of night?

Of course not. It’s pure guesswork based, I suspect, on the capacity of the Tiger Tiger nightclub outside which the car bomb was parked. Sloppy journalism and bad headline writing.

Not that anyone gives a fuck in a market where newspapers are devalued by being given away on every street corner.

OF COURSE, it’s all about meeting your market, so we must pay tribute to the Daily Express, aka the World’s Greatest Newspaper, which last week hit five key touch points with a single front page.

“Today is wettest day for 50 years”

was the, er, splash. “Win a superb campervan” (probably second-hand)

was the tease, along with a promise about a cure for the common cold, a Wimbledon pullout, and the everpresent picture of the Princess of Newspaper Sales. Good work, fellas.

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