Skullduggerry in the shires

I DON’T think any of us have ever been happy about the way our craft is portrayed on television. Soap scriptwriters in particular seem to be astonishingly naïve or just plain lazy.

 

The Weatherfield Gazette regularly sends doorstep merchants out onto the cobbles of Manchester whose blatant thuggery would have them up before the PCC and sacked by the News of the World before you could say Ken Barlow. And now that plague of casual stereotyping has spread to the rural idyll of Ambridge, home of The Archers.

 

We’ve had words with Borchester Life and its thrusting young editor Glen Whitehouse before. (Who can forget the David Brent-like re-branding of this venerable magazine as B Life?) But recent events would have Archant bosses, acknowledged masters of the genre, choking on their slow-roasted shank of lamb with raspberry jus.

 

Here’s the back story: Lee Mason, Felpersham City’s star player, holds his 21st birthday party at Grey Gables, to the delight of Caroline who invites a photographer from Borchester Life to record the grand occasion. But during the course of the piss-up, Lee punches Ian the gay chef in a quite shocking homophobic attack. (I blame Jan Moir.)

 

Concerned about negative publicity, Caroline phones thrusting young editor Glen Whitehouse and asks him not to run the pictures. Glen suggests that he might be persuaded to do this, but only if she takes out a double-page ad in the next issue. Reluctantly, Caroline agrees. At the same time, Glen is promising Linda Snell that he’ll ditch the pictures if she’ll come up with a ‘gossip from the powder room’ column, dishing the dirt on celebrity guests.

 

Blackmail? Extortion? Or just a bit of entrepreneurial nous during these difficult days? You decide, but you have to say that our Glen is a bit of a lad.

 

OF COURSE, such shenanigans would never happen in real life, would they?

 

Next stop Newsquest, where poor editors are being swamped by a tidal wave of fuckwittery beyond even the most imaginative TV screenwriter.

 

As well as another tiresome round of bench-marking, these poor souls continue to suffer the lunatic attentions of a certain Philip Chisholm, who seems to have been given the run of the place in an attempt to drum up a few bob from photo sales.

 

Not content with urging ever more Bonny Baby competitions on the editorial unfortunates, Mr Chisholm has now hit upon another spiffing wheeze to ‘harvest revenue by using existing human resources”.

 

‘Why not,’he asks, ‘Get Paid to Write the News?”

 

Brace yourselves, because this isn’t going to be pleasant (and the punctuation, grammar and spelling are all Mr Chisholm’s).

 

‘The concept is straightforward; send out email flyers to all local business telling them that you are a media centre capable of writing their PR stories and photographing any required pictures. The success is born out of the revenues £150 per job up to three hours, thereafter £45 per hour plus travel and subsistence. Naturally you then use these stories within your own Newspapers. You are also now in a position to sell these stories on to other publications. The synergy fits hand in glove with your media business in creating revenue from excising resources.”

 

Hmm, ‘excising resources”? But wait, there’s more.

 

‘This also allows you to create local heroes from your regions businesses; such opportunities then open the way to new ad revenues or sponsorship deals, with products like the ‘Editors Portrait of the week’. Such weekly profiles could be of any local business and be sponsored by such as an insurance company etc. Therefore, words and pictures sell regional newspapers coupled to the photojournalist’s craftsmanship in being able to provide these skills on demand … After all why send a photographer/journalist to the opening of a new office, business presentation or conference when you can get paid to attend?”

 

Yes, why indeed? Why bother at all with such things as editorial integrity? Let’s face it – there are so few fucking readers out there that surely they won’t notice if we suddenly abandon objective journalism and turn our few remaining staff into PR tarts?

 

Mr Chisholm, I salute you. Even in these tempestuous times, I never expected to come across a money-spinning idea quite so crass and quite so completely at odds with the basic values of journalism. You clearly have a very special talent. And, I bet, a very shiny fucking suit.

 

This is an extract from the full Grey Cardigan column, published in the November print version of Press Gazette. You can buy a subscription by clicking on the link on the home page. Please do.

 

 

 

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