Grey Cardigan: Extract from the June column

IN WHAT was thought to be the last ever issue of Press Gazette (again), The Grey Cardigan found himself elevated to the post of Editor of the Evening Beast.


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But we’re back (again), sharp-eyed and smiling, so whither the old boy? Is a Bobby Ewing shower scene from Dallas called for to restore the curmudgeon to his rightful place downtable? Hell, no. He’s been around long enough to deserve his chance of glory. Bring it on.


NEW Editors always get a honeymoon period of sorts. The weary staff smile sweetly at your glib platitudes about proper investigations, proper campaigns, and getting reporters off the phones, off the diary and out of the newsroom. Management tolerates modest expenditure, wanting to be seen as keen to support their new man, and wary of being embarrassed by a premature falling-out.


And for old boys like me, who have suffered the indulgences of perhaps a dozen predecessors, the chance to finally do your own thing can be intoxicating. Often it is the small things that matter the most. In all my time at the Evening Beast, the accounts department has been sending out memos in Comic Sans, a typeface loved only by drooling morons and borderline dyslexics. (And the idea of the accounts department doing anything that involves the word ‘Comic’ reminds one of the drunk who falls into the grave at a funeral.)


But no more. I summon the accountant, a man so bereft of personality that he’s almost transparent, and I instruct him – yes, dear reader, instruct him – that in future I will only read emails and memos that are set out in double-spaced 12pt Times New Roman. He looks baffled. I may as well be talking Klingon (although I suspect he might well be fluent in that).


And then there’s the issue of the first front page. We all want to make our mark with something spectacular, or at least vaguely interesting, so I despatch a reporter into town (I do worry that he might get the bends if he’s out of the office for too long) to bribe a 15-year-old to buy an imitation gun from one of the dodgy shops at the back of the market.


Slap a picture of a life-size Colt 45 on the front page, beneath it a 96pt caps head reading ‘GUN LAW’, summon up an indignant leader column bemoaning the terrible danger this puts our young people in and you’re there – an eye-catching package to mark the new era. And I’ve only seen it done ooh … at least 17 times before. (Mind you, as the police now seem to be shooting people because they can, rather than because they have to, perhaps it does have some relevance after all.)


Then to more disheartening matters. As part of my deal with our MD, the Eminence Grease, I have been granted an assistant editor, but not a deputy editor. (I asked him what the difference was and he replied: ‘Five grand and 500cc.”) This leaves me with the problem of Alistair, the deputy editor appointed by dear Crystal Tits.


I call him in from his glass cubicle. He knows what’s coming but it’s still like drowning a doe-eyed puppy.


‘You know, Grey, I don’t really think I’m cut out for this business,’he says. ‘It’s too brutal for me. I’ve got a friend who runs a sauna in Brighton. I may see if he wants a partner.”


I agree with him that that might be a less pressurised environment and hand him the black bin bag. Mercifully, most of the staff have drifted off, so his humiliation will be relatively private.


On the way out of the building I realise that this is the first time I have actually sacked anyone. I’ve provided the ammunition plenty of times before, but never had to pull the trigger myself. This calls for a swift one in The Shivering Whippet.


What a strange reception. The place falls silent like a Wild West saloon when the gunslinger enters and I’m left to stand at the bar on my own. Eventually Mungo, the peripatetic Glaswegian sub who keeps a house brick in his desk drawer ‘just in case”, sidles over.


‘So Grey,’he mutters. ‘You’ve taken the 30 pieces of silver?’His disapproval is apparent.


I didn’t have the heart to tell him that in these straitened times, it was actually only 23 pieces…



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