The Grey Cardigan 14.07.06

A SNOTTY email arrives following my disparaging remarks a couple of weeks ago regarding crap PR people.

It is indignant, pointing out the valuable role the PR industry plays in disseminating information to lazy hacks who often don't even bother changing the order of the words in press releases, never mind re-writing them. Of course, I accept this proposition wholeheartedly, but not quite as wholeheartedly as I would have done if "desseminating" had been spelt correctly.

So yes, you're important, but please don't ring me on deadline asking if I received a press release you sent three days ago and please don't clog up my inbox with 12 megabytes of shite that have about as much relevance to my newspaper as a Tasmanian knitting pattern.

Later that day, the inbox pings again. The message, flagged High Importance, is entitled "Radiators To Admire". Oh yes, we'll hold the front page for that one.

THE DIANA obsession of the Daily Express is well documented, but even hardened hacks were taken aback by the appearance of yet another ghoulish trip through the tunnel on the first anniversary of the 7/7 bombings. (Incidentally, with 9/11 in mind, why do we pander to the Americans on disaster dating protocol? I for one am going to insist on referring to the London terror attacks as "7/7".)

One can only imagine the scene in the Express conference: "So boys, what have we got?" asks editor Peter Hill.

"Well boss, it's the first anniversary of the London bombings, so we've got pictures of all the victims, interviews with survivors, a top cop warning that more attacks are likely and a new video has been released featuring one of the terrorists."

"Nah, fuck that. Let's put Diana on the front…"

To be fair to the Express, although God knows why, I should point out that The Independent, in its often wearisome drive to be different, didn't splash on the anniversary either, but did manage to give it a small mention on page one.

IT'S OFTEN insignificant little things that readers find rewarding. I'll give you an example. Leafing through The Observer at the weekend, I came across a piece on the new Modigliani exhibition by the saintly Mary Riddell ("typical man, always drunk and slept with all his models…") illustrated with a byline picture that looked exactly if it had been painted by Modigliani! Fantastic stuff. From such simple pleasures are loyal readers made.

THE REAL scandal at the BBC isn't the obscene pay rises, pensions and bonuses trousered by bosses; it's the stomach-turning awfulness of Andrew Marr's Sunday morning programme.

The poor chap does his best, but the set is a drudge of brownness, he looks as if he's been dragged through a hedge backwards, and the end of show get-together on the couch often descends into toecurling embarrassment.

Take this Sunday. In a surreal scene worthy of a Monty Python sketch, we had composer Carl Davis playing the Beeb's stolen-from-Handel World Cup theme on the piano, accompanied by Mr Marr on tambourine, Kate Hoey on the spoons, Vivienne Westwood on the washboard and Patricia Hewitt shaking an ethnic percussion instrument.

No, really. I was stone cold sober, too. Put that out as a comedy show on a Saturday night and you'd have a sure-fire hit.

A CLASSIC Guardian correction last week: "The predatory shark referred to in an article What dangers lurk beyond our beaches, page 3, G2, yesterday, is the porbeagle, not the poor beagle." Their punctuation, by the way.

THE DAILY Mail persists with its gadget-and-TV listings Live magazine, but for how much longer? I counted just eight pages of advertising in a 68-page issue at the weekend. All those Northcliffe editors currently crying into their mineral water as their editions disappear must be greatly encouraged by such extravagance.

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