The Grey Cardigan: 17 November 2006

AT LAST, someone has said it. Professor Kim Fletcher has penned a piece in The Guardian entitled "in praise of the subeditor" (although I prefer the hyphenated sub-editor) pointing out what we all know — the digital revolution cannot be successful without the skilled input of the massed ranks of pipe-smoking, Luddite cardigan-wearers.

And we're not even talking "citizen journalism" here, where any local moron gets to upload gibberish. We're talking about the basic tenet that newspaper reporters cannot be left alone to interact directly with the reader. The bastards are not to be trusted and, without the corrective discipline of skilled subs, are liable to drop you in it in a multitude of ways. They cannot spell, they know little grammar, absolutely no law, and they often seem complete strangers to our old friends, The Facts.

And then there's the very medium of our electronic future: an intro on a printed news story will not always translate to the web. It certainly won't make a podcast script or video soundtrack. Someone still has to check and clarify, tickle and titivate.

And who's going to do that? Not the iPod-wearing Mac jockeys currently branded "production journalists". No, my friends, the essential black arts remain the province of the sub-editor. One or two horrible mistakes or hefty legals will soon bring management to their senses. And so we'll survive again. Our future is secured. Bring it on.

I THINK we all know that editors are never found wanting when it comes to self-confidence. Some would go so far as to call them egotistical maniacs.

Even here at the Evening Beast (one edition, printed overnight), the Boy Wonder, our short-trousered leader, shrugs off a double-digit circulation decline by blithely pointing out that readership is up from 2.8 per copy to 2.9 and that therefore "the audience is growing". The blinkered, innumerate little twat.

And so it was no surprise when Mr John Meehan, editor of the Hull Daily Mail, launched himself onto the internet with a personal blog. After all, his newspaper prides itself on being at the forefront of the lunatic lunge towards free content.

On his MySpace page, John waxes eloquently about his newspaper and his own role in its success: "People ask me all the time how it feels to be the biggest regional media player around these parts. How does it feel? I'll tell you: It's a cracking position to be in.

"I decide what's going in the paper, my people make it happen, end of story. I surround myself with good people and I have decided who they are. It's a deceptively childlike approach to media, but I happen to like it.

"As a member of the Society of Editors and having delivered some very exciting keynote speeches, I happen to know that when I talk people listen. They not only listen, but they act on my very clever advice. It was no surprise when I picked up a newspaper one day to find out I was amongst the top 100 most influential media figures in the country. I was only surprised by my low ranking — I thought top 10 at least. In my heart, though, I know that I am number one."

Inspiring stuff, which continues in scrotum-tightening fashion at great length. I'd love to bring you more, but space won't permit it. Have a look yourself at http://myspace.com/hdm1.

Of course, the whole thing is a cruel hoax. (Isn't it?) Surely no editor could be that self-absorbed? The worrying thing is the number of Hull journos, present and past, who didn't realise that this was a spoof and spent days emailing each other extracts in increasing stupefaction.

ONE OF the contenders for the title of the World's Worst Column has cashed in his chips. Simon Carr, whose mission was to invent something that would make him rich in his old age, has finally got a pallet-load of his device off a Chinese container ship.

This Holy Grail, the pursuit of which has sustained him through what seems like several years of Independent columns, turns out to be a talking clock. Yep, that's it. Anti-climax doesn't sum it up sufficiently.

That now leaves The Guardian's piss-poor Simon Hatstand in pole position — fittingly, by default. We'll leave it a couple of weeks to see if any other contenders appear before granting him the unopposed title. That's if we're here in a couple of weeks… You can contact me, should you be minded, at thegreycardigan@gmail.com. Best be quick.

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