The Grey Cardigan 09.03.07

IT'S ABC day in the Evening Beast newsroom. Double digits down again, folks.

The Boy Wonder, our short-trousered editor, has known the figures for weeks, hence his increasingly grey demeanour. But today is the day that his humiliation is made public; the day he's forced to look us in the eye, with both parties knowing that his expensive madcap schemes have come to naught… beyond the loss of dozens of good journalists sacrificed as part of his pact with the God of Stupid Margins.

The Brute, our malevolent deputy editor, is making an effort at forced jollity. He is also spending an inordinate amount of time hanging around the management suite. I think we know what's going on there. But change there cannot be. We're in limbo, up for sale and unable to invest, invent or evolve.

Much has been said about our future. Assorted worthies have got up on their hind legs at public meetings demanding investment in local news. Assorted speculators have turned on their plastic grins and nodded approval. But fine words butter no parsnips.

If the venture capitalists get us then the pip-squeezing agony will continue. If one of the other groups buys us, then back-of-house synergy will become the mantra… moving shortly afterwards to frontof- house blood-letting.

I'll tell you what we need. A patrician owner, or group of owners. Local men made good. High Street businessmen who see a 10 per cent return as a decent profit. The solicitor, the property developer, the ironmonger and Mister Bun the Baker. The men who very probably launched our newspapers in the first place.

Admittedly, that would bring its own set of problems, not least in the area of editorial independence. But maybe the only way forward is to look back to the future.

YOU KNOW, we really do feed people a load of crap at times. Have you ever come across a pilot of a crashed plane who hasn't "bravely steered his stricken craft away from a primary school"? Of course not.

Yet, as one of my fellow cardigans points out via email, given the choice of bringing your aeroplane down into a big, muddy field, or crashing it into the rather more unyielding bricks of a building, what would you do?

And then we come to "hero driver" syndrome, most recently manifesting itself in the guise of the man in charge of the London- Glasgow express that crashed in Cumbria. No disrespect to the poor bloke, but are we really to accept Mr Branson's assertion that his driver was a hero because he "stayed at the controls with total disregard for his own safety"?

What else was he going to do as his train came off the tracks? Wander down to the buffet for a stiff gin and a bacon burger? And did I really hear a breathless report on the Today programme claiming that the driver had attempted to "steer his train to safety"? How the fuck does that work then? Has Branson secretly fitted steering wheels to his Pendolinos?

And we just swallow this utter rubbish, a populace so accustomed to rampant cliché that we don't even notice the nonsense any more.

SPEAKING OF which, we happily take the piss out of the Daily Express for its perpetual Monday morning Princess Diana leads — ironically, this week it would have been justified — yet how many other spurious splashes do dodgy newsdesks inflict upon us?

The Sun's Monday offering was an absolute stinker: "Al- Qaeda Target Harry: Plot To Kill Prince". Oh really? Well there's a fucking surprise.

This was, of course, an "exclusive", and was backed up with an inside spread of those risible images spawned by the 3-D Striker cartoons which illustrated how Harry would be trained to resist a kidnapping attempt. I can only imagine that the blokes who used to draw the wonderful Commando comic would have done a better job.

To be honest, it was utter tosh. You know it, I know it, and The Sun knows it. And God only knows what's going to happen once the spare heir is actually out there on the front line.

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