BACK IN the day, some 20 years ago, we didn't have the all-singing, all-dancing full-colour newspapers we enjoy today. We had crude spot colour, which gave motor dealers licence to splash yellow and magenta across the page, and if we wanted a full-colour picture, we had to cope with a three-day lead-in time while the separations were done by a graphics house.
For inexperienced inkies, getting pictures in register was a major problem. More often than not our efforts at magazine-style sophistication resulted in something that looked like a page torn out of Cassius Clay's colouring book. But that didn't stop us.
I can't remember who came up with the feature on foraging for mushrooms, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. And what better way to showcase our colour capability?
It was just a shame that none of the 32 bastard printers staffing the eight-man press could get the plates on in the right order.
The perfectly edible Calocybe gambosa was consequently turned into the deadly Amanita muscaria and, more worryingly, the poisonous Amanita virosa was rendered indistinguishable from the very tasty Lepista nuda. The next few days, while we awaited news of mass deaths across the patch, were a nervous time.
Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Last week theguardian produced a very expensive set of glossy colour wallcharts, including one on fungi. The item in the Correction and Clarifications column the following day, pointing out that "the giant funnel cap… described as edible… may be mildly toxic" was thus viewed with a certain poignant inevitability.
THERE ARE other ways for newspapers to kill people. Three Asian youths were jailed for life this week for the murder of black IT worker Isaiah Young-Sam during rioting in Birmingham last October.
There was much media coverage of the "ugly rumours"
that had sparked the unrest, namely the completely false story that a local West Indian girl had been raped by a gang of Asian men.
Funnily enough, in among all this middle-class liberal angst, no-one seems to have found space to mention The Voice newspaper, which splashed with the sensational Page One headline "GANG OF 19 RAPE TEEN".
No quote marks, no "claimed" and no attribution — just stated as bare fact. Shockingly careless and horribly culpable.
AND IF we're not killing people, we can at least have their homes burned down. Enter stage left, carrying a petrol bomb, the unruly mob known as the News of the World subs.
I've admired their work before, but Sunday's exposé of the existence of a bail hostel housing sex offenders in a suburb of Bristol is worthy of another mention. Needless to say, the hostel is "within a mile of NURSERY schools, at least four PRIMARY schools and a SECONDARY school", but what really earns the Grey Cardigan adjective of approval is the description of one "pot-bellied"
paedophile's trip to the local shops.
Apparently the "shaven-headed sex monster", inevitably wearing a "dingy" polo shirt and "shabby" anorak, went to a corner shop and bought a pint of milk.
The next day he visited a small market where he "shuffled from stall to stall among young children".
The day after that, he went out and bought a washing line and "passed dozens of unsuspecting mums pushing children in prams".
I don't know about you, but I detect a sense of deep disappointment at the News of the World that the "bloated beast"
didn't hurl himself upon the aforementioned prams, flies agape. But excellent work, all the same.
You can contact me, should you be minded, at firstname.lastname@example.org