Axegrinder 23.02.2007

Did Telegraph boob over Beeb’s coverage of HQ?

It was a triumph for Telegraph editor Will Lewis.

He’d managed to persuade the BBC to cover his digital revolution on its main news bulletins.

Execs must have been delighted when they heard the Corporation was going to publicise their product to millions of BBC1 viewers.

But insiders at The Telegraph’s Victoria HQ tell Axegrinder the piece by the Beeb’s Rory Cellan-Jones has gone down like the proverbial lead balloon.

He followed the paper’s assistant editor Andrew Pierce for a day to show how the paper’s £50 million digital newsroom operates.

But, referring to the exodus of unhappy hacks at the paper, business reporter Cellan-Jones tells viewers of the “many departures – both voluntary and forced”.

He goes on to mention Pierce making a “cheap and cheerful” video report for a “tiny audience” as opposed to the paper’s print readership which is “in decline”.

Ouch. No wonder the BBC crew felt obliged to offer viewers a close-up of a discarded banana skin on Pierce’s desk.

Still, at least Lewis managed the small consolation of stealing the thunder of the Daily Mail’s new “e-paper” which was launched on the same day.

Taxi for Utley! Just don’t put it on expenses

Colleagues of Daily Mail writer Tom Utley are silently seething at the way he’s lifted the lid on their expenses scam.

And of all places, Utley chose to do it in his weekly column – not exactly somewhere where the fact might be overlooked by his boss Paul Dacre.

Worse still, Associated hacks now fear that the taxman might be among the readers who found it fascinating to learn what journalists do with their “blanks”.

For those who missed it, Utley opened his column (16 February) with the following: “Over the years I’ve occasionally been asked by colleagues to fill in blank taxi receipts and sign them with a false name so that they can claim the money as business expenses.”

The former Telegraph-turned-Mail writer goes on to explain his Catholic angst at this because the deed is “terribly wrong” and a “fraud”.

This doesn’t stop Utley admitting that he occasionally signed blank receipts to avoid the suggestion he doubts his “mostly honest” colleagues.

“After all, taxi drivers frequently dish out blank receipts with a knowing wink, thinking they’re being helpful to shifty-looking folk like me,” he writes.

“Why should my friends be denied reimbursement for properly incurred expenses, just because I happen to be a prig with a visceral aversion to forgery?”

Utley concludes: “Let me end by begging one thing of my colleagues: please, please don’t ask me to forge a taxi receipt.

“Get somebody else to do it. (Now, there’s a moral cop-out for a Catholic – and another sure-fire ticket to Hell).”

Somehow, Tom, I don’t think too many of your colleagues will be troubling you for your signature in future.

Times should send Coates to Newcastle

The efforts of Times political hack Sam Coates to “expose” discrepancies in MPs’ expenses sparked much amusement among his colleagues.

The Tiggerish Coates excitedly revealed: “The figures also show a wide discrepancy among Newcastle MPs, depending on who travelled by rail and who opted to go by aircraft.”

Sounds like you’ve got a scoop, Sam.

Surely only a matter of time before someone is forced to resign from the Commons over this?

Coates explains: “While Paul Farrelly from Newcastle-under-Lyme spends £8,029 on rail and nothing on air travel, Doug Henderson, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North, managed to spend £7,224 as well as a further £3,158 on rail.”

Oh dear. As even Axegrinder knows, Newcastle-under-Lyme is in Staffordshire and a mere 191 miles away by road from Geordieland.

As one Times reader – a chap called Julian from Shrewsbury – emails the paper to point out: “There are quite a few towns north of the Watford Gap, despite what you are told down there.”

And as another reader observes more bluntly: “Get your atlas out.”

MPs plotting revenge over tapping affair

It appears the scandal over the News of the World’s ex-royal reporter Clive Goodman has not been forgotten by MPs at Westminster.

According to Axegrinder’s nark at the Commons, MPs are plotting a gentle probe into issues surrounding privacy and the press.

The all-party Culture, Media and Sport Committee is keen to know a little more about allegations of widespread phone-tapping.

It plans to call a series of witness to see what, if any, light they can shed on the murky business.

Among the big wheels who may well be called are News International boss Les Hinton and the Daily Mail’s Paul Dacre.

Would the real Anna Davis please stand up

Spare a thought for London Lite reporter Anna Davis who is being begged to change her byline by a freelance hack with the same name.

The “Another Anna” email has been causing much hilarity in London Lite’s newsroom where it is bouncing around the office.

The other Anna pleads:Dear Anna, I’m another Anna Davis, and am also a writer. Lately a lot of people have been asking me, in a slightly puzzled way, whether I’m writing for London Lite. And I’ve just had the attached email, clearly meant for you.

I’ve been writing under the name Anna Davis for a number of years now – journalism for The Guardian amongst others, and four novels (the most recent of which was published just a couple of weeks ago).

I’m sure there are other Anna Davises around, but you’re the first one I’ve come across who is also a writer.

And I do think there is enough of an overlap in our professional lives for confusion to arise (it already has, after all).

I know this is a really annoying thing to be asked (to say the least!), but would you consider a slight change to your writing name such as adding a middle initial in order to make us distinct from each other?

I would do it myself, but it would be difficult for me this far into my writing career, with publishing deals for my novels in many languages throughout the world.

I’m sure you’re as attached to your name as I am to mine, but am hoping you’ll see that this could be for the best for both of us. In the worlds of scriptwriting and acting, people are obliged to register their names to avoid this kind of duplication.

There is no official way of doing this for journalists or novelists, but there are lots of precedents of people who use slightly altered names to avoid being confused with other writers.

I’m sorry to be bugging you with this, and hope you’ll think about it seriously and get back to me soon.

I would be happy, incidentally, to put a notice on my website redirecting any browsers who may be looking to contact you rather than me.

With best wishes, Anna Davis

Shelley gutted as donkey falls on her ass

The departure of Sky News’s Kay Burley from the ITV show Dancing On Ice has left many of her “fans” utterly bereft, I’m told.

The Mirror’s TV critic Jim Shelley will doubtless find it hard to cope after mercilessly making her his weekly target. His description of her as a “constipated donkey”

must have delighted newscaster Burley’s partner George Pascoe-Watson, political editor at The Sun.

But Shelley will not be the only one disappointed. Axegrinder is told that hacks at Sky and Pascoe-Watson’s colleagues at The Sun were gleefully swapping text messages every time Burley took one of her frequent tumbles on the ice.

O’Reilly makes the front page? Oh, really…

How pleasant to see The Sunday Times giving its former education correspondent Judith O’Reilly such gushing coverage.

The paper decided that the fact her blog “Wife in the North” had secured O’Reilly a book deal (hardly unusual these days) was worthy of page one coverage and a leader.

And the story was given acres more space in the Review section and along with a flattering photoshoot of O’Reilly. Must have been a very, very slow news week.

Web fans the flames of chair fire exclusive

A story about an office chair being destroyed by fire – which appeared on the Westmorland Gazette website this week – proved to be an expected hit for perhaps the wrong reasons, and prompted 74 comments from all over the world.

Here’s the story: An office chair was destroyed after it was set on fire on the grassy area, off Maude Street, Kendal, this afternoon (Friday).

Fire crews from Kendal attended along with police.

A spokesman for the fire and rescue service said: ‘A delinquent set fire to an office chair in the middle of a grassy area and it was extinguished using one hose jet.’

And here are some of Axe’s favourite comments: Posted by: Ian Big event! Is this really newsworthy?

Posted by: Mark Thomson Must have been a very slow news day on Friday!

Posted by: Jonty This really is scraping the barrel! You’ve got to feel sorry for the journalist who wrote it, though. I suppose everybody’s got to start somewhere!

Posted by: Ben Thomas This story has upset me so much I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep tonight – I work with office chairs very closely on a daily basis and they’ve always treated me well and to hear stories like this makes me sick to my stomach.

Posted by: Dave Kenyon My thoughts go out to all the friends and family of said chair. Such a tragic waste of plastic and foam. I hope the police/MI5/Interpol/CTU find the culprits and throw away the key. Truly shocking.

Posted by: Chris Bell I heard the chair was causing problems with posture. I’ve had a bent back now for five years and am glad to hear of these acts of revenge.

Posted by: Laurent Blanc These chairs come here from foreign places and think they can take our bottoms.

Fully deserved if you ask me.

Posted by: Andrew Daniels I’m the journalist “who’s got to start somewhere” and as you can see it’s turned out to be a very popular story. It’s nice of you all to have taken up so much of your time to comment and it’s turned out to be the talk of the newsroom! If only all my stories generated this much feedback and interest!

Posted by: Jon Smith As Andrew Daniels’s tutor during his preparation for journalism exams, I am proud to see that he has fully absorbed all we had to teach him about news values.

A lesson to us all.

Posted by: J Wheel The mists of an earlier time, of myth and saga Swirl down from Cunswick Scar to Helsfell The dull gleam of helmet and tempered metal Just a fleeting glimpse, a feeling, a shudder.

They found you, between this life and the next One hose was all that was needed To extinguish the flame of your pyre A vehicle once forgotten, now misunderstood.

The police did what they could But no foul murderer should they have sought.

For you, a true hero of the office Left, as you had lived, a Viking true

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