The Grey Cardigan: 20 July 2007

THE GAME is afoot in The Evening Beast newsroom. The Boy Wonder has mysteriously failed to return from his two weeks in Tuscany, meaning whispering groups of conspirators now lurk in every corner, and The Brute (our detested deputy editor) has had his teeth whitened and is wearing a new suit.

Mungo, our peripatetic Glaswegian sub, is charged with accosting the MD in the car park. Mungo has overdone the cider while the MD Рa gel-styled, unctuous former ad man, more eminence grease than ̩minence grise Рhas overdone the aftershave.

Mungo’s perfectly valid questions are rebuffed with disdain. He stomps off in search of the house brick he keeps in his desk drawer.

Over the next few hours, the evidence mounts. The latest story in the Boy Wonder’s pet campaign – building a skateboard park for asylum seekers despite its location next door to an old folks’ home – is relegated from its usual slot on page 3 to a left-hand backender.

A barely-worth-the-bother picture job at the car showroom of one of his mates mysteriously disappears from the diary. Most tellingly, one of the junior bean-counters parks his grey people carrier in the Boy Wonder’s treasured space. But no-one is saying anything.

Later that day, I happen to bump into one of the secretaries by the coffee machine and enquire as to news of our missing editor. “Oh yes,” she says.

“They left a message on his phone summoning him to London the day he was due back from holiday. He saw the group MD at 2.15pm. He was wearing a grey check suit with a pale blue tie.

He wasn’t offered tea and left 39 minutes later. Circulation figures, market research and an inappropriate fumble with one of the Classified comfort women at the Christmas party were mentioned.

“He got a year’s money and he can keep his car for six months, but he has to pay for his own petrol – unless he blabs to Press Gazette, in which case they’ll want it back. There are eight candidates on the list, two internal and six external, one of whom is a woman.

The Brute will get an interview but won’t get the job. The announcement of the departure will be made at 3pm tomorrow. He’s leaving amicably ‘to pursue other interests’ and interviews start on Tuesday.”

Well, there you go. Didn’t I tell you to always look after the secretaries? And it’s the old favourite, “pursuing other interests”.

So that’s six months on the pop followed by the launch of a PR consultancy. I’d like to say he didn’t deserve it, but he did. His gutlessness in the face of the enemy cost us jobs, editions, district offices, credibility, selfrespect and readers galore. Fuck him.

WE’VE ALL become accustomed to the dog-eat-dog battle of the newsagents’ shelves, but the News of the World’s pathetic Prince rip-off at the weekend was really taking the piss.

“World Exclusive – Amazing Free Prince CD” screamed the front page tease. Err, well, not quite. Turn to page 30 for details and you find out that there are just 1,000 “free” CDs available for a circulation of 3,269,483 and that to stand a chance of getting one you have to send in a text at 25p plus network charges. Hardly free, is it?

Why they bother with this shite I don’t know. It might give them a temporary lift on the day, but it’s really going to annoy anyone who finds themselves taken in by this shameless scam. Perhaps Trading Standards should have a word.

A FEW months back, I was asked to write a “Grey Cardigan” piece for the British Journalism Review. They warned me up front that it wouldn’t pay much – I think the fee was £150 for the best part of 3,000 words and a full weekend’s work. I did it because I thought that the voice of the Lonesome Sub needed to be heard, especially among the ciabattaring classes of that publication’s readership.

Last week, I got an email from the BJR’s publisher, SAGE Publications.

Should I wish to view my published piece, it said, “as an author you may purchase (at preferential rates) a number of downloads to your article online (e-prints) for personal use and for sharing with your colleagues”. A snip at $24 a pop.

It’s a novel approach, making people pay to see their own work, but I suppose we should be happy that someone’s at last found a way to make money out of the internet.

MORE TURMOIL at the BBC, where the accounts department is struggling to come to terms with Alan Johnston’s expenses – 114 successive “lunches with Hamas contacts” and not a single receipt.

ONE OF life’s great pleasures is the obituary page of the Daily Telegraph, although the fact that we’re fast running out of war heroes is an imminent problem. But as long as that waspish honesty continues it’ll still be one of the best reads of the day.

As an example, I bring you the following extract: “Count Gottfried von Bismarck, who was found dead on Monday aged 44, was a louche German aristocrat with a multifaceted history as a pleasure-seeking heroin addict, hell-raising alcoholic, flamboyant waster and a reckless and extravagant host of homosexual orgies. Perhaps unsurprisingly he managed only a Third in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.”

Wonderful stuff, even though I might quibble with some of that punctuation.

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

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