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Media: Don't they check anything these days?

IN MY time as an editor one thing that drove us potty every night on the stone [hot metal composing area] was waiting for the marks to come back from the proof readers. "Where's the proof?" That's what we got from the readers. But it gets worse today - there are no readers. They rely on these people from Sussex University who can't read or write anyway.

Here [in a recent Daily Mirror] is an RSM in the Parachute Regiment. Disappeared, of course, left his wife, his regiment, deserted in Serbia and was holed up with a Serbian interpreter. Good story there in The Mirror.

His wife was very pleased. She is quoted: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and he is going to find that out. I can't wait to get my hands on him. The sad thing is just what we thought all along, he has been driven by his crutch. It's pathetic." I thought - his "crutch"! I know he has got an RSM pace-stick - but his crutch! Honestly, Nathan Yates and Graham Brough probably don't know the difference between a crutch and a crotch.

Then you've got the advertising department. We used to tell them to get lost. We used to say "I'm not having that - forget it. Just go back - we are not putting that in this paper. It's appalling, it's sick. We can't demean the coinage with your dreadful ads."

Nowadays you pick up the paper - talk about bloody confetti! Bits fall out all over the place. And every paper has had, the other week: "Celebrity Sex - the sex lives of the rich and famous exposed."

An important line was - this bit fell out - "How many blokes has Zoe slept with?" Zoe Ball. She happens to live next door to me with Fat Boy Slim. Now how am I going to face her when this is plastered all over the UK? And our advertising departments take this and put it in The Times - everything from The Times to the Sunday Sport. So I got this magazine and do you know how many blokes Zoe slept with? Three. Three in the last six years. Cor blimey, you'd get better than that at the local supermarket.

Talking about standards - Who are these people? Tara Palmer-Tompkinson - would you employ her? I mean, all the shackles have gone. All the restraints, all the impediments, all the handicaps, all the things that drove us crazy and gave us grey hairs - notably 14 unions - they've gone and now anything goes and editors are able to pay pounds 500 or pounds 600 a week to the likes of Tara Palmer-Tompkinson. What a load of rubbish. Have you read it? Most of that concerns a family that came from Southampton and asked her if they could be photographed with her. That's the column!

Here's a headline [from the Daily Mail] that amused me: "MY REGRET - DES LYNAM'S EX-WIFE TELLS HOW SHE CHEATED ON HIM AND RUINED THEIR MARRIAGE." D'you know, if you are good at mental arithmetic - or you've got a calculator - and you do some sums you will discover, at the bottom of the last page of that three- page feature, that she actually left him 23 years ago. My regret? It's tragic.

The Mail is still the best of them all. The great thing about the Mail is the headlines. It's David English 1965. They haven't changed. And the great thing about the Mail headlines is that you don't have to read the story.

Derek Jameson is former editor of `The Daily Express', `Daily Star' and `News of the World'. This is extracted from the Hugh Cudlipp Memorial Lecture.