Ding dong, the witch is dead

This is an extract of the Grey Cardigan column from the February issue of Press Gazette. To get the full version every month, subscribe at the link on the home page.

DING DONG! The witch is dead. After what must have been one of the most ineffective editorships in regional newspaper history, dear Crystal Tits was finally handed the poisoned apple last month.

As predicted, the suits waited until she had ushered through a brutal series of spending cuts and redundancies and then told her that she was being made redundant and that she had to compete for the new position of managing editor (multimedia) with the poor sod down the other end of the room who’s been desperately juggling seven of our weekly titles.

Whoever got the new job would be responsible for those titles, the Evening Beast, our internet operation and, as the memo said, ‘the overall editorial strategy of our information hub going forward”. (Information hub? Do you think they mean newsdesk?)

As ever with these things, the suits know who’s going to win the contest before it even begins. They’d already made their decision before starting the consultation process. And so it was that one evening our Azerbaijani cleaners filled seven bin bags with nail varnish and perfume samples, several expensive pairs of what I think are called ‘fuck me’ shoes, a dying flower arrangement, framed photographs of Nicholas Coleridge and Anna Wintour, and a large box of Slimfast products and pushed the remnants of Crystal Tits’ reign off down the corridor on a trolley (pausing only to sell a dodgy pirate DVD and a pound of smoked bacon to a passing hack).

But that’s when things started going wrong for the suits. The ‘successful’ applicant for the post of managing editor (multimedia) was Eddie Jennings, a lovely bloke in his late fifties who was an old school newspaperman through and through (and seen as being relatively cheap and eminently malleable). He loved his newspapers and lavished them with courts and councils, golden weddings and school fetes – even covering events on his way home after another 12-hour day as the spending and staff cuts robbed him of the chance to do his job properly.

Now Eddie has never wanted to work for the Evening Beast. After a brief and disastrous spell as a Nervous Nigel on the newsdesk a decade ago he was sidelined into Special Projects (a sort of print Priory for failed news editors). From there he was given one of our frees, then a paid-for and, like the ugly duckling, eventually blossomed into a damn fine weekly newspaper editor. Now here he was, not only over-loaded with more weekly titles than he could manage, but now landed with the Beast, plus all the management bollocks that goes with a floundering website that can’t even pay its way. It was never going to work.

Eddie never even moved into his new office. A day after the announcement, he simply jacked it in, without even a pay-off (a situation the NUJ – for once doing something useful – is trying to remedy).

So now we have no daily editor, no weeklies editor, and no-one stupid enough to embrace the poisoned chalice of the penniless pixels. The Evening Beast and all its associated parts drifts on rudderless, bereft of direction or editorial input.

The eminence grease that is our MD now hovers nervously around the newsroom, brandishing a cheesy grin. Because we’re bastards – and because he deserves it – we take the opportunity to ask him ‘difficult’ questions: ‘This header … do you think it should be 72pt or 60pt?”I’m not sure about the leading on this story. Do you fancy 12 on 13 or what?”This court case on Page 3 – do you really think it’s OK to name the child involved?’The poor bastard flounders, but who are we to ease his pain? If he wants editorial control then he’ll have to pay for it.


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



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