Grey Cardigan: The December column

THE Editor of this esteemed organ emails through the December deadline and suggests ‘something Christmassy”.


Christmassy? Well how about some jokes about receiving your cards or getting the sack? Because that’s all that’s happening around here at the moment. Not only is our one miserable overnight edition being printed on an industrial estate 50 miles away (produced by so-called printers who don’t even leaf through the pages to make sure all is OK before completing the run), but much of our subbing operation has now been force-marched 30 miles up the road.

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I’ve managed to hang onto four subs – meaning just two are ever on duty – but more and more of our pages are being homogenised into group-wide productions. We used to be able to disguise this by intervening to localise bits of these common pages – giving a bigger mention to a TV programme with a local link, for instance – but now even that has been banned.


(Remarkably, I’ve managed to protect Mungo, the peripatetic Glaswegian sub who keeps a half-brick in his desk drawer ‘just in case”. God knows how. I think no-one is brave enough to tell him to go.)


Christmas in this business used to be fun. There were the riotous parties, the ill-judged fumblings with the classified comfort women (it was always interesting to see who got the silence-buying pay rises or promotions on the return to work after the New Year) and the time-honoured tradition of getting the tea boy so drunk that he threw up into the sausage rolls and had to be sent home in disgrace.


But now it’s hardly the season of goodwill. Everyone is thoroughly miserable, we can’t produce newspapers to the standards we want and I honestly think that the suits have given up on us and are just riding the downward spiral of terminal decline. Bah, humbug.


ANYWAY, Christmas has a lot to answer for. Some time in the dim and distant past, well-meaning relatives carefully gift-wrapped a toy abacus and slipped it into Santa’s sack addressed to little Michael Pelosi, Master John Fry or the infant Adrian Jeakins. These small boys, enraptured by the clanking of the brightly-coloured beads, went on to become accountants, eventually happened upon the newspaper industry and now run Northcliffe Media, Johnston Press and Archant.


And that, in my humble, personal opinion, is where it all went wrong. This is a creative business, dependant for success on imagination, inspiration and risk-taking. Accountancy, with the best will in the world, isn’t. The grey suited bean-counters aren’t a stereotypical myth; they’re the Dementors of the business world, soul-sucking fiends capable of draining away your happiness.


Now I’m not saying that the gentlemen named above are completely to blame for the industry’s decline. We must also look at Sly Bailey of Trinity Mirror (former tele-sales girl; no previous Christmas misdemeanours known of) and Paul Davidson of Newsquest (who, judging by the way he refuses to communicate with the rest of the industry – or his own staff – was probably a Trappist monk. Actually, given his soaring salary at a time when the rest of his employees are on a pay freeze, plus the ending of their final salary pension scheme while his own pension payments have rocketed, I think we can safely put him down as a rather seedy used car salesman in a previous life).


This thing of ours has always thrived on flair and showmanship, extravagance and extroverts. Our current crop of bosses might be best buddies of the corporate shareholders (not to mention their own bank managers), but over the past 10 years the dead hand of fiscal prudence certainly hasn’t done our newspapers any favours.


We’ve lost thousands of jobs, millions of pounds in revenue and the ‘service’ we provide to our remaining readers is a pitiful shadow of what it used to be and still should be.


Shame on you, the lot of you.


I’M fucking furious with the Independent group for launching their ‘i’ newspaper – and not just because of the silly affectation of a lower-case name.


No, it’s because when I go into the garage to pick up the papers in the morning, I now have to buy five daily newspapers, an action which is greeted with stunned and amused incredulity by the window-lickers behind the counter.


It was bad enough when it was just the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, The Times and The Sun.


‘Ooh, what a lot of reading,’they’d giggle. ‘How on earth are you going to get through all those?”


Now it’s even worse. The thought that someone might want (or need) to buy FIVE daily newspapers is clearly beyond the grasp of the moronic shopgirls of this nation. You walk out of there, head held high, while they nudge their mates and snigger at your receding back. ‘Who is this weirdo freak? FIVE newspapers?”


It’s the same when you get trapped into going to a dinner party. The conversation will be flowing when suddenly some arse will say ‘Ooh, I shouldn’t have said that in front of you. You won’t write about it, will you?”


Well no, love. If you’d told me that Prince Philip was shagging Cheryl Cole, then I might be interested. But the fact that you stuck in a dodgy insurance claim when the dog knocked a cup of coffee over in the sitting room isn’t really going to win me the Pulitzer fucking Prize. Bah, humbug again.


You can contact me, should you be minded, at



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