Too labour intensive, too bloody expensive

LET’S get one thing straight: if we’re talking “bungs”, Panorama didn’t need to go kicking down the dressing room door at Bolton Wanderers, did they? As for “tapping up”, it’s been going on for years, and we’ve all known about it. Well, I for one have, anyway… Here, shock horror, is the transcript of a recording of an illicit approach made to me by an agent for the Mr Big of our business, the sinister Australian oligarch known only as “M”.

The year was 1979, the place a dingy office in a down-at-heel building near the fish market on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For legal reasons, the agent can only be described as “Kelvin” — not, of course, his own name.

KELVIN: Banksy? Is that you?

ME: Uuurrgghfuckinuurrggh…

KELVIN: Is that you, Banksy? Why are you making that funny noise?

ME: Yes, it’s me. And I’m making that funny noise because it’s four in the morning here in Manchester and I’ve just got back from the Mirror subs’ traditional Christmas lunch. In the Manchester Mirror subs’ traditional Christmas condition!

KELVIN: Serves you right. Listen mate, you know you really hate all those long, boozy Mirror lunches. And that fat pay packet will stunt your ambition. Anyway, Old Gorilla Biscuits [the sinister Australian oligarch known as “M”] wants me back in London for good, but I’ve got to find a stooge — er, stand-in — to take my place before I can leave this hellhole — er, heaven-on-Earth. So you’re it.

ME: Uuurrgghfuckoffuurrggh…

KELVIN: I’ll take that as “yes”, then.

That was the illicit tapping up. And the bung? It came two weeks later, when McFrenzy (not his real name) flew to London whereupon we met in the Old King Lud for sandwiches and a glass of house white (he knew how to wine and dine a superstar!).

ME: I’m not so sure about the New York Post, Kellypops (not his real name, of course), I’m married now…

KELVIN: Jesus! Who’s the fool — er, filly?

ME: No one you’d know. And we’ve had a daughter.

KELVIN: Christ! Wonders will never cease! But look, if it’s the cost you’re worried about, then forget it. Money’s no object where The Boss [the sinister Australian olig-etcetera] is concerned. He’ll fly ALL of you, and your luggage, all the way to JFK.

ME: He will?

KELVIN: Sure! And depending how long it is before Rupe [the sinister Australian known as “M”] sacks you, he’ll even stop the loan from your wages in easy monthly payments.

OK, so that was the bad old days and this is now. But honestly, the blundering Beeb can’t have spent much more time or worked any harder producing their barely believable homage to the John Pilger School of Investigative Journalism than Kelvin spent working up his “bung” to lure me to New York.

Has telly discovered too late the twin reasons newspapers abandoned investigative journalism — too labour intensive, too bloody expensive? Their heavily hyped heap of bung (sic) didn’t just miss the net, it might yet prove to be the greatest own goal since Gilligan.

Will it yet prove to be a game of two halves? I sincerely hope so, because from my seat in the stands, the half-time score is: Beeb Bunglers 0, Beautiful Game Bungers 5.

EAGLE-EYED circulation reps at The Independent will have noticed that returns from the corner shop in Cornhill, Northumberland have increased by one in recent days — Mrs Banks has done what I have always urged dissatisfied readers to do and voted with her feet.

Keen Indy reader though she be, the dolly-garch in this household has abandoned her favourite breakfast read as a protest against the “sickening trivialisation of the chattering classes’ comic” — her words not mine, Mr Kelner.

Specifically, while she could live with Giorgio Armani’s “Red” Indy and even wholeheartedly approved the promise that 50 per cent of the day’s profit would be spent fighting AIDs in Africa, what she WOULDN’T stomach (sic) was the inclusion of the Kate Moss (“of ALL people!”) souvenir poster that accompanied it. Neither did she care for the previous day’s Gaza shock issue being topped off with a frontpage blurb for Virginia Ironside’s jaunty “Guide to Growing Old Disgracefully”. Inappropriate was the mildest adjective she used.

All of which merely aids my ploy to wean her away from the Indy and into the Newcastle Journal, which sensibly is shortly to employ my services as a weekly columnist!

FREESHEETS are a travesty of real journalists’ time, produced for and wasted on lame-brain readers who are generally too thick to read the ads and invariably three numbers short of a sudoku grid.

There, I’ve said it! Shamefully, I and a host of pundits have shilly-shallied around reviewing the Londonpaper-Metro-Lite offerings in recent weeks, faintly praising Wapping’s offering as “youthful and vital”, favourably comparing the Lite with the Metro as if anything in the rags mattered a damn, when in fact they and their kind (Warning: Young readers look away now) are just a load of old bollocks.

A little Dickie-bird (Addis, actually) even wrote in Media Guardian that freebie dailies might be the future of print. Try telling that to the folks who gave us the £2-a-copy Sunday Times as you figure out how freesheet nationals will reach the millions who live in the sticks… d’you think newsagents will just GIVE them away?

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