Must choose the winner of our Ugly Husband competition (photos sent in by readers for a chance to win Him Indoors a makeover and a grand).
We’d asked the wives of those we judged as the two most hideous to send in more snaps. In one the chap looks newly dead. Caption reads: “That was Bill on the morning of our wedding… and I still married him!” Decision made. Is Chat hard on men? No, just realistic. Good start to the day, I feel. First half an hour is always the busiest. My job’s to make sure each of the 10 of us in features knows what we’re supposed to be doing and what the deadlines are.
Ours is a strict schedule: each day we have to write, edit and get the editor’s approval on six features. So sourcing stories to feed this hungry machine is the key.
I call one freelance to see how she fared interviewing the family of a man who’d built a guillotine and decapitated himself. “His brother insisted on re-enacting the beheading,” she reports. “His mum had a cough and kept apologising for the phlegm she brought up.” Too much information, but the doughnuts from Christine, our practicals’ editor, still go down well at our afternoon ideas meeting. Sod the diet. I’m left with a list of new competitions to suggest.
I’m in early to prepare for our weekly meeting to discuss the next edition. Can I present an issue’s worth of stories? The editor’s keen on the girl with the 9in nail in her forehead (a lot keener than the girl herself, probably).
She also goes for the man who was attacked with a fish hook, which went through his eye and came out of his nose. It’s agreed we can do the woman with the bladder problem who hasn’t had sex for 18 months as a health story. An issue for strong stomached readers, clearly.
Later, I read through a few hotlines (transcribed voicemail messages from readers with a true story they’d like to see in Chat). I note a message from Kelly from Southend who wants Tracie, our assistant features editor, to call her. “Oh, that’s the girl who lost her memory after a car crash,” Tracie sighs. “She rings every week. Forgets she already told us.” Features assistant Geraldine volunteers to go to the offlicence for much-needed end-of-day supplies. No wine glasses in the office.
Never mind, you get more in a mug.
The first e-mail I read is from Jacqui, the editor’s PA, telling us we haven’t won the Lottery rollover.
Damn! Chuck journalism for Caribbean loafing plan back on hold.
Amanda, a new senior writer, starts today. I give her a quick guided tour, then to work. Must edit the tale of a man who discovers his sister’s been murdered only when he picks up a morning paper. Julie, our current work-experience girl, gets lost. Easy to do at IPC. When she finally surfaces I put her on to researching crime stories.
In the afternoon we flat-plan the first of our bumper Christmas Chats.
There’s the mum whose family was massacred on Christmas morning; the chap killed because he picked up the wrong brolly; a couple of women who’d got Dear John letters as presents and two women whose kids died on Christmas Day. We have one girl who lost a leg, another who lost three fingers.
Awful, yes, but our stories are triumphs over tragedies. Still, Santa may need a sleighful of body parts this year.
Chat: readers ‘like a bit of action’
Plug last gaps on flatplans. While I ring round the agencies, deputy editor Kay rings her contacts, touting for juicy murders, Chat readers’ favourites.
One freelance regrets he’s out of violent crime but nervously offers a weird sex story. “Woman whose new boyfriend suggests a threesome with their Doberman?” We whimper and sniff. But it’s a hell of a coverline.
“We’d need a picture of the dog,” I woof. “Will he give quotes?” asks Dan, the office wag.
Check column from our psychic agony aunt Ruth the Truth. This week she has predictions for a Shelley in Hartlepool. Ruth senses Shelley’s husband is involved with the woman in the chip shop. And there’s a warning for Wayne from Pontefract, who needs to check that nasty smell. Could there be a dead mouse behind the sofa? Christine needs volunteers to test dandruff shampoos. Silence and joke brushing of colleagues’ shoulders.
Better response for samples from a chain of sex shops. Dan, one of our writers, nabs the arousal aromatherapy oil and suggests Jacqui, promotions manager, put it in the oil burner she keeps on her desk. “Time for an office love-in,” he suggests. Rumours fly on who whipped the sex guide video. A member of the art department is prime suspect.
It’s heads down for most of the morning as there’s lots of copy to get through. Over lunch I ponder reader Maureen’s out-of-body experience, which triggered a series of multiple orgasms – presumably in-body. Anyway, sounds good to me. Maureen’s account is going into It’s Fate, one of Chat’s 13 sister titles. This magazine is a mix of true life and psychic stuff, edited by Mary Bryce, who heads all Chat’s spin-offs. The afternoon brings proofs to sign off, legals to chase, deadlines to meet, more stories to assess.
And, as it happens, more bloodbaths.
Chat readers are a law-abiding, humorous lot on the whole. They like a bit of action, though. So we’re buying the stepfather who massacres his family; the masked gunman who shoots a reader’s son in the head and a woman who’s attacked by Samurai sword-wielding thugs. Makes my life seem tame – thankfully.