The Grey Cardigan 14.05.06

DEEP IN the bowels of the Evening Beast something stirs. It's the NUJ chapel, finally catching on to the notion that not all is well with the world.

They've posed and pontificated while jobs were lost, expenses were slashed and editions disappeared. Now they're really angry — because we're having to change our working hours to produce our wonderful, overnight, news-free, single edition.

Meetings are called and hands are shown. The phrase "up to and including strike action" is heard. Militancy abounds. Graffiti appears in the lifts. Someone floods the toilets again.

Sadly, it's all bluff and bluster.

Journalists have long lost the ability to take effective industrial action if, indeed, we ever had it. Although I left the Union when they started sending love letters to Colonel Gaddafi, I've done my time on the picket line — usually just before Christmas if I recall correctly.

We never got anywhere, of course. We'd be stood shivering around a brazier (well at least until the pub opened) while inside a handful of management stooges filled the paper with PA before our so-called comrades, the bastard printers, continued to run the presses. (Why was it that their picket lines were inviolable while ours didn't seem to count?)

In these electronic days, it would be even more difficult to have any impact on production. I dare say that a trainee accountant and two tea ladies could get the Evening Beast out for a week. And so poor is the quality of some of our regional newspapers that it would be two weeks before even the least dozy reader noticed that something was amiss.

What really worries me is the shining idealism of the young journos who've never experienced industrial action. No one seems to have explained to them that a few pence on the house agreement won't cover the wages they'll lose in just one day on strike. Bringing management to heel might be a romantic notion, but it's not a realistic opportunity now.

EVER SINCE The Sun came up with a clever, pop song-based headline on a story about one of George Michael's indiscretions, The Guinness Book of Hit Records been the holy grail for a sub seeking to make a splash. Sometimes it works.

But sometimes it doesn't. Sticking "Did something get a hold of his heart?" over the details of "clean-living family man" Gene Pitney's untimely death wasn't big and wasn't clever. Frankly, it was pathetic.

THE COVER lines on News International's love it! magazine become ever more incongruous. Next to the main picture of a smiling, targetmarket, young woman, we have such belters as: "I'm a bigamist who married my uncle", "I had my face sliced off to get a toy boy", "Goodbye Mummy — my precious Molly's last words" and, best of all, "I paid £900 to sleep with Batman". Holy Helvetica!

HOT ON the heels of David Beckham's revelation that he has mild obsessive-compulsive disorder tendencies, guess who was the first hack to get their own, real-life account into print? Step forward Liz "Look At Me" Jones. Well there's a fucking surprise. But I'm not sure having to write seven columns about your husband before you are able to leave the house quite counts.

SOMETIMES IT'S best to get your retaliation in first. Perhaps that's why the domain-holder of www.grauniad.co.uk is … The Guardian!

You can contact me, should you be minded, at thegreycardigan@gmail.com

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