Dog watches dog 06.03.03

Milburn’s Westernnn Mail ‘n’ Eccchooo

When South Wales Echo editor Alastair Milburn pops out to buy his lunchtime sandwich he chats to the vendor outside the local chemist as a dipstick of how sales are going each day. “He’s brilliant,” says Milburn. “He can tell me to the exact copy how many he’s sold. It’s a very good way of learning straight away what sells and what doesn’t.”

One lunchtime last week the two were chatting when the vendor was caught short. “Could you hold the fort for a moment, I’m dying for a pee,” he asked Milburn. “I can trust you – you’re the boss!”

“I happily agreed,” Milburn reports. “Except a quick comfort break turned into several minutes and the besuited editor manned his stall as the capital’s office workers streamed past to get their lunch.” Sadly no photographer was on hand, so Dog has taken the liberty of recreating the scene with some Photoshop jiggery pokery. History does not record how many copies he sold.

More importantly, Dog – a connoisseur of news vendors’ famously impenetrable sales calls (the Bolton Evening News seller outside WHSmith is a particular favourite) – wonders how impressive was Milburn’s “Westernnnnnnn Mail ‘n’ Eccchoooo!”?

“I was still speechless,” says Milburn.

Thompson: aisle be there –by satellite link

The Sun’s headline of 4 March, announcing that war with Iraq was likely in 10 days, would have been read with interest by many in the news industry who have been making plans in readiness for such a conflict for months.

But for two people the precise timing of the war is even more pertinent: Sky News presenter Jeremy Thompson has been lined up to anchor from inside Iraq and is on standby to fly out there at the first whiff of an official conflict.

There’s only one hitch – his son is due to get married on the 22 March and Thompson is having to make contingency plans in the event of him not being there.

One solution, if Sky News bosses agree, will be to set up a live link from Baghdad so that Thompson can talk to the wedding party from a big screen.

ITN’s head of business development, Michael Jermey, is also planning a wedding on the same date – he’s unlikely to have to be whisked off for action, but the number of ITN’s great and good who turn up at his nuptials might be affected.

Budget only stretched to T-shirt

Dog’s Geordie spotter can’t help wondering whether Sir Bobby Robson’s home city newspaper could have coughed up a slightly more memorable present for the great man’s 70th birthday.

“Can’t quite see the old man of English soccer getting that shirt framed for a centrepiece among all his other soccer mementoes, can you?”

Fortunately, The Journal Newcastle, made amends in the newspaper with a considerably more impressive eight-page tribute to the Geordie (and English) Nation’s most enduring managerial star.

A-list PA just can’t get away from it

Joan Thomas is as famous around Fleet Street as her A-list of bosses. She has been secretary to some of the editor “greats” after she was lured south from The Northern Echo to The Sunday Times with Harry Evans.

She had already done spells as PA to Reginald Gray, Mark Barrington-Ward and Don Evans at the Echo.

After Evans left The Sunday Times, she continued to work for succeeding editors Frank Giles and Andrew Neil and also worked for editor-in-chief Sir Denis Hamilton.

Her later years have been spent as right-hand support to four weekend editors at The Daily Telegraph – Will Ellsworth Jones, Bernice Davison, Eric Bailey and Rachael Simhon.

At long last, Thomas believed retirement had arrived, however, it was a false dawn. She had one week to enjoy her new-found freedom before she was recalled to the Telegraph to stand-in for editor Charles Moore’s secretary, Frances, who was off sick.

When Dog spoke to her she was fervently hoping Frances would be well enough to return by this week.

No story in Hoon’s holiday -Marsh

When the Today programme defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan got his scoop about Geoff Hoon being on holiday skiing while troops were heading for the Gulf, he didn’t get quite the response he was expecting.

The new editor – Rod Liddle’s replacement Kevin Marsh – admitted that he’d known about it for weeks since he was told about it in a briefing from the Defence Secretary himself but, er, hadn’t spotted there might be a story in it.

Times flies

There was a peculiar smell in The Times newsroom on Tuesday morning. Journalists coming into work had been warned that this was not a terrorist gas attack.

“B52 bombers with cropsprayers” would be visiting the building overnight to deal with the enemy, they learned.

Pest control officers were coming in to exterminate an infestation of – fruit flies.

The Times staff were therefore, perhaps uniquely able to report: “There are no flies on us.”


An important message arrives at the kennels from the Daily Mail about last week’s piece on the London marathon. It points out that Paul Dacre is not, in fact, a sponsor of marathon man Alastair Campbell – although he did make a donation directly to the leukaemia charity for which the PM’s director of communications and strategy is running. Dog, ever one for ensuring strict standards of accuracy, is happy to set the record straight.

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