The Evening Beast’s transformation from a daily regional newspaper to an all-singing, all-dancing electronic media information hub is not going well.
The problem lies, as ever, with training. For the most part, we are honest yeomen, skilled at what we do (or did) and not particularly good at things we don’t do (or didn’t).
Now while one of my downtable colleagues might be able to cast you off three lines of 48pt Nancyboy Grotesque caps (or whatever is the latest font the red-socked twats have imposed upon us) without even thinking, that doesn’t mean that he’s going to turn into Moira Stuart when you stick him in front of a video camera and tell him to turn out a two-minute news bulletin for our website.
A couple of months ago we had a visitation from a cult. Four of them, all clad in black, declared they were going to lead us into the light; to make us video stars and podcast performers.
They then spent 30 minutes with each of us, chanting a mantra of “empathy, emphasis and entertainment”, before returning us, somewhat puzzled, to the newsroom, where a traditional letters page of dustbins and dogshit was waiting to be subbed. And that was it.
Now some of our younger staff are quite capable of coping with the demands of recording a daily news bulletin – mainly the ones who are only marking time here until local TV or radio comes calling.
It would therefore seem sensible for these wannabe Nicks and Natashas to carry out the new duties, while the rest of us got on with what we are good at, namely casting off three lines of 48pt Nancyboy Grotesque caps. Alas, it is not to be.
The new culture is all-embracing. Everyone must take their turn, however reluctant, however inept. Which brings us to the day last week when the name on the rota was that of Mungo, our peripatetic Glaswegian sub who, for some reason, keeps a house brick in his desk drawer. Next to the plastic Perrier bottle of neat vodka.
It would be an understatement to say that it didn’t go well. Mungo stuttered, stammered, swore, belched and farted. All at once.
The backcloth swung like a mainsail going round Cape Horn, idiot messengers wandered in and out of shot and, once his colleagues had become fully aware of his discomfort – and his probable inebriation – some robust barracking accompanied his painful prose.
Of course, none of this would have mattered on any normal day. The victim would have simply waited for normality to be restored and then try again.
It wouldn’t have mattered if there was any kind of quality control attached to the process. After all, no one in their right mind would allow such gibberish to be posted on our website.
Unfortunately, the new creed dictates that this is a one-man job. You’re expected to edit and publish your own contribution without help or hindrance from others.
So a fed-up, frustrated and thirsty Mungo pushed the button and his expedition into “ciderspace” immediately became public property.
I’m told it was hot video of the day on YouTube, he’s since been condemned by the SNP as the “unacceptable face of Scottish racial stereotyping”, but is comfortably ahead in the vote for the Stanley Unwin Society’s Man of the Month award.
Meanwhile, I am taken to task by a fellow hack over my piece a couple of weeks ago about poor Tom Utley’s struggle to make ends meet on £120,000-plus a year.
I pointed out that such a lavish salary was probably four times what many middle-aged senior reporters with families and mortgages are paid on DMGT’s regional titles.
It appears that I was being over-generous. My correspondent informs me that as a middle-aged senior reporter with a family and a mortgage on one of DMGT’s regional titles, Mr Utley’s modest stipend is actually nearer SEVEN times his salary. I apologise wholeheartedly.
Still, it’s good to know that, in these difficult times, it’s not just the cannon fodder who are feeling the pain.
Lord Rothermere himself is suffering alongside his troops, plummeting from 51st to joint 72nd in The Sunday Times Rich List with a mere £920 million – down £100 million on last year. Maybe Tom’s earning more than we think.
You can contact me, should you be minded, at firstname.lastname@example.org