Grey Cardigan: 'Torn trousers? It's baffling what makes a news story these days


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I’m increasingly baffled by the strange world our trade now inhabits. One day last week, the lead story on the Holdthefrontpage website was about Louise Mensch phoning up a reporter from her local paper to announce that she was standing down as an MP. The piece breathlessly related how the hack had answered the phone to Mrs Mensch while ‘still in her pyjamas”. And this is worth 14 pars? Reporter is phoned by local MP and handed a story? I’d have been fucking mortified if my crew hadn’t broken the news.

A few days later, and it’s getting worse. Another ‘splash’ (and another 14 pars), this time on a reporter who was ‘attacked’by two dogs when he turned up at a travellers’ site. ‘I felt their teeth against my skin,’the poor lamb whined. ‘My trousers had two big holes in them so they bore the brunt of it.”

So that’s it. Torn trousers. No jabs, no rows of stitches, just a pair of torn trousers. Well I’m sorry, but in my day if you came back from a travellers’ site without being savaged by a Staffy, threatened with a shotgun or having a bucket of piss thrown over you, then that was a tale worth telling.
Maybe it’s because they so rarely get out of the office, but this latest namby-pamby generation of so-called journalists seems to have completely lost sight of the job they’re supposed to be doing.

A COUPLE of weeks ago I wrote about the panic spreading through BBC local radio newsrooms as they suddenly realised that their evening paper had gone weekly and that they had nothing to read on the morning bulletin any more.

I was taken to task for this allegation by a BBC local radio veteran who defended his former colleagues. I fear that he is, like me, of a certain age. While it is true that there were several excellent BBC local radio operations in the past, that simply isn’t the case now. One need only listen to hear the evidence.

Still, unusually for me I thought I’d better back this up with some facts, so I turned to a report by Mediatique which shows that in one year, print newspapers spent £1.35bn on news gathering, TV spent £461m, radio spent £146m and online cost just £111m.

That breaks down further with national newspapers spending £875m and the regional groups, £470m. And that means 19,000 front-line editorial jobs, as opposed to 3,400 in TV, 1,700 in radio and perhaps 800 web and app geeks.

Take these figures in conjunction with the 800 jobs recently lost in BBC TV and radio and it doesn’t take a genius to work out who’s doing the donkey work when it comes to news gathering. The case for the prosecution rests.

THOSE geeks may sneer at what they call the Dead Tree Industry, but London 2012 provided a superb example of how grubby old newsprint can still work its magic. The Times deserves a special mention for that excellent series of wraps, but the 28-page supplements in the Sunday Times were an absolute joy. Superb job, chaps.

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