ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
THE OLD line about lies, damned lies, and statistics has always seemed unfair. Now I'm not so sure. Every so often, someone comes up with a stat so striking that it becomes set in stone. This has just happened to Ginny Dougary, the journalist and author of The Executive Tart and Other Myths (Virago, pounds 7.99), a new study of women in the media.

In it, Dougary produces some research into the number of women in 'top editorial jobs' on national newspapers. On the broadsheets, she says, there are 63 top jobs, and only two are occupied by women. This figure has already been widely quoted. Dougary herself sets great store by it: she discloses it not in one sentence, as she might, but in a table which occupies two pages, listing every 'top job' and giving it either a '0' or a '1'. It's quite a jolt: there you are, reading a book, and suddenly you're back in the O-level maths class, doing binary multiplication.

The table is so eye-catching that it's easy to miss the paragraph of explanation before it. 'The league table,' it says, 'reflects my interest in investigating what are still perceived as jobs for the boys - the top jobs in what are regarded as the 'hard' areas of news and opinion - and to see whether women have made any inroads into them. For this reason, I have not included any of the features-supremo assistant or executive editors such as (she names five top women).'

In other words, Dougary has cooked the books. She has left out some of the most powerful posts in our business. On the Independent on Sunday, for instance, she includes the political editor (a man), who writes two or three articles a week, but not the editor of the Sunday Review, the biggest section of the paper - who, like the majority of my Review colleagues, is a woman.

Dougary is quite right to argue that there are not enough women in top media jobs. But she does her case no favours by coming up with unreliable evidence.

AMONG the many good stories in Alan Bennett's diaries, reviewed on page 26, is one about our theatre critic, Irving Wardle. Writing about Kenneth Tynan's memorial service, Bennett reports that when Penelope Gilliatt gave the address, Wardle passed a note up the aisle, asking her to speak up. In fact, Irving tells me, it wasn't him. 'The note was handed up to me from the back of the hall. It was a scruffy bit of paper, but the calligraphy was quite exquisite, and it said 'Could she not be persuaded to project?' I turned around and there was Joan Littlewood in a pair of baggy trousers and an old golfing cap. She couldn't stop directing.' This is obviously not a serious error. But it's a surprising one to find in something written at the time. Bennett's diaries make marvellous reading. But are they true?

ON 4 September this column reported the remarkable feat of A A Gill, the new TV critic of the Sunday Times, in penning a review that included 34 uses of the first person singular. The following week, Gill, or I I Gall, as he is fast becoming known, barely mentioned himself at all. Had he perhaps been deterred by my jibes? Either way, by last Sunday, he was himself again. So much so that he broke his own record, and used the first person on 41 occasions. When I first took the Sunday Times, the TV critic was Dennis Potter. O Sunday Tempora, o mores.

CLERIHEW time. After last week's eight-syllable job, brevity remains the order of the day. Mark Sanders of Wellingborough makes up for living in a long-winded place with this:

Cher's

hair's

not real,

I feel.

And makes off with the pounds 5 prize. Back to normal length next week, please.

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