I WAS in the room, albeit slumped drunkenly over a table, when Anila Baig won the 2004 Press Gazette award as Regional Newspaper Columnist of the Year.
She was on the Yorkshire Post at the time; within days she'd been poached by The Sun. Cynics among us (so that's everyone then) harboured doubts about how the Currant Bun might deploy its new star signing. Sadly, those doubts have proven justified. An early stab at a weekly column came to nought, and now, two years on, the poor lass is left to knock out the six-par nightly TV preview — her head-scarfed byline picture a strange cultural contrast with the reality rubbish she's required to recommend.
True, she's wheeled out to deliver a quick 500 words on "Why all Muslims aren't nutters" every time balance demands, but one can't fail to be reminded of the fate of Sean Wright-Phillips at Chelsea. Perhaps a transfer beckons.
I'M UNEASY as to the direction The Spectator is taking. These new sections designed to appeal to vulgar City types don't sit comfortably with a cultured readership that would consider ostentatious displays of wealth the height of bad manners.
And what's this in last week's issue? A leaflet advertising a special spray that renders your car numberplate unreadable by speed cameras, a timeshare offer, a miracle diet and the surefire way to earn £100,000 a month? All that's missing now is Charles Moore's patented system for beating one-armed bandits.
THE SUN seemed very pleased with its splash "revealing" that Lady McCartney had once posed for mucky pictures in a German sex manual.
But didn't we all already know that the one-legged Geordie opportunist had a chequered past involving topless modelling and mysterious Arab boyfriends?
Why publish now?
I'd dread to think that Ms Wade and her celebrity pals had conspired to keep this compelling information from the public eye for the past few years just because Heather Mills had married one of the richest and most powerful men in showbiz.
PAGE NINE of the Daily Mail: "MPs face World Cup tickets fury", reporting how corporate sponsor McDonald's gave free tickets to 12 MPs at the expense of "ordinary fans".
Page 42 of the same issue of the Daily Mail: "Win tickets to two England games with Gillette", wherein another corporate sponsor gives away tickets at the expense of "ordinary fans".
MEA CULPA. In last week's column I referred to "troublesome prostrates".
As one correspondent was quick to point out, it's the "prostate" that's liable to concern ageing grey cardigans, while it's reporters who are likely to be "prostrate".
Ironically, this heinous error appeared in a piece about why it wasn't wise to upset subs — namely that they'd shaft you forever and a day. So what have I done to upset the Press Gazette subs, who surely should have spotted what can accurately be described as a cock-up? (Shifts blame and wanders off whistling.)
OF COURSE we all had a laugh at the hapless Guy Goma, hauled from the Broadcasting House lobby where he was awaiting a job interview and then paraded before the News 24 cameras in a case of mistaken identity. Less comment surrounds the stupidity of the robototty presenter, who persevered with the interview even when it was clear that Mr Goma possessed neither an understanding of the subject or much beyond a basic grasp of the English language.
But the real question, which no-one seems to have asked, is what the BBC was doing considering Mr Goma, a French-speaking Congolese with a doubtful visa, for a job in its IT department in the first place? I thought they were getting rid of staff, not taking on inadequate replacements. Would anyone care to explain?
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