The Grey Cardigan 13.01.06

AS ROME burns the Boy Wonder, our 11-year-old editor, reaches for his fiddle. Embattled by falling circulation, imminent redundancies and plummeting sits vac revenue, the strategic genius decides to pluck some low-hanging fruit with a stunning plan – we are to have a “clear desk” policy.

Now I have to say that I was under the impression that our contract cleaners, who resemble an Uzbekistani street gang, had already implemented a clear desk policy of their own – particularly when it comes to CDs, review copies of best-selling books or any loose change left lying about, but never mind.

So now all desks have to be cleared at the end of every working day, including in and out trays, for the spurious reasons of “data protection and security”. Now “fire hazard” I could understand, but quite what al-Qaeda are going to do with the Evening Beast dominoes league division three table I\’m not sure.

I wonder if it’s ever occurred to the Boy Wonder that this is a living, breathing newspaper office, not an antiseptic call centre (although given the time our reporters spend on the phone rather than getting out of the office, it may as well be).

Three days in and there are already casualties. The subs’ rota, a complex, contentious and time-consuming work, has disappeared. A packet of treasured family photographs due to be collected by a reader after being used on the Nostalgia pages has been binned, meaning that no-one now dares answer the phone just in case they have to explain the situation.

Worst of all (or best of all), one of the Uzbekistani gangsters has cleared away a pile of restaurant receipts left lying on his desk by The Brute, our foul-tempered and potty-mouthed deputy editor. Seats are already being reserved for this evening’s heavyweight confrontation.

HOW MANY people had time to read their newspapers on Christmas Eve? And how many got as far as a piss-poor Alexander Chancellor column in The Guardian? And how many then read the 58 disparaging words he wrote about Harrods, including: “The last straw was the memorial book for Diana and Dodi …Will Mohamed Al Fayed never allow closure?”

Well clearly not, for a full 16 days later Mr Al Fayed (pictured right, in front of the Harrods memorial statue to Dodi and Diana) has had a 623-word reply published.

Admittedly, it gave him the chance to berate poor Alexander as “an odious creep who has become a disease on the face of The Guardian”, but surely it also brought the original piece to the attention of thousands of readers who had missed it in the first place?

Even The Guardian couldn’t believe its luck, running the entire venomous epistle in the G2 section instead of on the letters page where it belonged. Methinks Al Fayed doth protest too much.

SCHIZOPHRENIA is a terrible disease, never more so than when it afflicts a newspaper that is attempting a piecemeal redesign. Which brings us to the alphabet soup that is currently The Daily Mail.

What is that horrible bold type they’re using for panels (right)? As there’s already a font called Grotesque Bold we’ll just have to call it Bloody Awful Black.

Used sparingly, set left and unjustified, as it is on the sports pages, it’s just about legible. On the news pages, justified and hyphenated, it’s plain impossible. And we’ll not even mention the Art Deco bylines or the Helvetica derivatives that look as if they’ve been bought in a Marrakesh souk.

We shall not blame the red-socked twats for this aberration. This woeful tampering smacks of a trusted minion ensconced in one of those glass corner offices. For goodness sake, Mr Dacre, get a grip.

You can contact me. Should you be minded, at

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