Grey Cardigan: Extract from the November column

DESPITE MY own demons of frustration, drink and a red-mist temper, I have always tried to deal fairly with my underlings. Unless they were utterly inept or terminally lazy, they’ve always had a fair crack of the whip because we all know that this thing of ours is a demanding and exhausting trade.

 

I hate having to sit down with our FoC, a decent and honest man, and straight-bat him with the duplicitous company line when I know full well that his ‘demands’ on behalf of his members are both fair and reasonable. I hate having to make trainee journalists redundant – an industry aberration that up until this year I had managed to avoid. I hate condemning mortgage-ridden, middle-aged hacks to the scrapheap just because some beancounter in London thinks that junior reporters can file unsubbed copy straight onto the page.

 

In return, I expect to be treated fairly myself. Yes, I know the day will come (possibly soon) when I’ll be summoned to the office of the Eminence Grease only to find an HR bod sitting there with him, clad in a black cloak and holding a scythe. But what I wouldn’t expect is for my group chief executive to impose a two-year pay freeze on hacks earning £25k a year while his own salary increased from £501,234 to £609,385. Neither would I expect him to put an end to the final salary pension scheme for mere mortals while last year’s payments into his own pension scheme increased from £38,536 to £94,986. And nor would I expect the man heading up a company making £71 million in profit to sack 300 journalists while expecting a subbing hub in Southampton to produce a daily newspaper for Brighton, 60 miles and a couple of lifestyle evolutions away.

 

Yes, Paul Davidson, chief executive of Newsquest, I mean you.

 

Press Gazette house style won’t let me to use the epithet that most suits Mr Davidson, but I’m sure the editor will allow me to express the honestly held opinion that such casual greed is quite despicable, to say the least.

  

NO DOUBT with one eye on his budget, the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, Peter Fahy, decides to Twitter all 3,200 incidents his force had to deal with in a 24-hour period. Mr Fahy, who wanted to demonstrate how his officers deal with more ‘social work’ (i.e. dickheads) than crime, hailed the experiment a great success.

‘It’s been amazing because of the level of public and press interest. It’s hard to think of any story we have had in recent years which has generated so much interest. This has really shown us that this is the future. It’s been successful in showing the huge variety of police work we carry out.”

 

Where to begin? In the olden days, Mr Fahy, getting information about police calls out to the public wasn’t a problem. It was a daily diary job, whereby the crime reporter would pop down to the nick at 10am every morning and the avuncular desk sergeant would open the incident book, turn it around, and allow said hack to jot down every detail of Plod’s business in the previous day. This information would then make its way to the public via flights of nibs.

 

More important cases were discussed later that night at the bar in the Police Social Club over a pint or six, where we – and our expense accounts – were always welcome. If something really big was going off, then it would be an afternoon session with a DCI where a steak sandwich and many pints of Speckled Hen would yield enough background for a splash, half a dozen inside page leads and an invitation to the planned dawn raid.

 

It wasn’t the Press, Mr Fahy, who cut this flow of information to the tax-paying punters. It was the police, who suddenly decided that telling us too much information about their daily doings might scare the general public into thinking that they were living in a lawless, crime-ravaged nation.

 

So I applaud your decision (whatever its motives) to reveal what your troops are up to, but can I make just one suggestion? Why not set up a permanent, 24-hour feed of police activity to the Oldham-based Manchester Evening News and its remaining associated weeklies? Then you might not have to stage a publicity stunt the next time the government casts a stern eye over your finances.

 

DOES ANYONE know what has happened to our old friend Blunt, anonymous author of the wonderfully sweary and extremely scathing Playing the Game blog? He’s not posted a thing since mid-May.

 

Has this editor of a regional weekly fallen victim to the wave of cuts and mergers? Has he lost his job? Or has he had the frighteners put on him by his employers after they sussed who he was? I don’t know, but I’d like to be told.

 

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