The Grey Cardigan: 11.05.07

The Electronic Evening Beast thunders on through ciderspace, with many of us poor souls clinging to its coat tails for dear life.

The latest initiative emanating from the Boy Wonder’s clipboard is something called “Web First 24/7”, wherein we must make sure that any work we produce is made available to the web monkey down the far end of the desk before we even think of allowing it anywhere near the newspaper.

Always willing to toe the line, I immediately send him the local show results I’m working on, lovingly assembled in 6pt, complete with full details of the Working & Pastoral Breeds section and the keenly contested One Vase of THREE Small Blooms, Medium Decorative. That’ll send a frisson of excitement through Silicon Valley.

There is a more serious side to this latest missive: duty reporters are now expected to contribute any breaking stories to the website throughout the night immediately following their shift. Let me explain that again.

You’ve finished your 2-10 shift, written up the council meeting and finally got off home just after 11.30pm. But the game isn’t over. Anything newsworthy happening between midnight and when the day shift gets in (and in these days of single editions, that’s around 8am) is your responsibility.

You have to upload it as a matter of urgency so that some expat in New Zealand can immediately read about the latest carload of alcopopped teenagers to wrap themselves around a lamp-post on the bypass. For free.

The NUJ FoC, fresh from carefully checking the provenance of the sports desk’s half-time oranges, raises the issue of those poverty-stricken journos who don’t actually have a PC and/or internet access in their one-room hovels. Presumably the company will be providing the necessary kit and caboodle?

The Boy Wonder shuffles from foot to foot, clutching his clipboard like a security blanket. Err… well… no. Head Office has made no reference to such an occurrence, not even in the case of Mungo, our alcoholic Glaswegian sub, whose only piece of electrical equipment was a toaster until the fire brigade cut the plug off it following one smoke alarm too many.

“What I can tell you,” he stammers, glancing at the memo, “is that lack of resources will not be taken as an excuse.” Fuck me, it’s like talking to a Dalek sometimes.

Meanwhile, those temples of the ciabattering classes, the Waitrose car park and the council recycling plant, were again rocking to the sounds of Paul “P. Diddy” Dacre at the weekend. A couple of weeks ago it was Tubular Bells booming out of the seven-speaker sound systems as middle-aged 4×4 drivers recaptured their lost youth; last Sunday the freebie CD in the Mail on Sunday was a UB40 compilation.

But isn’t that a strange choice for the media empire that worshipped at the feet of the Blessed Margaret? A band named after the unemployment benefit card that defined the ’80s for so many people? A band whose best-known lyric is an emotional condemnation of the misery of the dole queue?

Altogether now: “I am the one in ten, a number on a list; I am the one in ten, even though I don’t exist…”

At least The Guardian knows how to pay proper tribute to Mrs T, by including her 1980 Tory Conference rap – “The lady’s not for turning” – in their giveaway booklets of Great Speeches of the 20th Century, so enraging the Sparts on the staff and the letter-writing Trots amongst the readership.

I was more irritated by the inclusion of Earl Spencer’s funeral address in the series. I hardly think a whining, self-serving diatribe from a man who’d already turned his back on the poor woman of whom he spoke (and who he later claimed to have heard whispering approval from her coffin) should rank alongside the likes of Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy.

What next? A souvenir poster of Enoch’s Rivers of Blood speech with little stickers of the SS Windrush?

You can contact me, should you be minded, at thegreycardigan@gmail.com

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