Media: The Word On The Street

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The Independent Culture
RUMOURS emanating from the troubled Observer see the place dividing into camps, with deputy editor Jocelyn Targett and his patron, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, on one side, and the Observer's actual editor Will Hutton on the other. They are divided over a Targett-inspired redesign that would reduce news in the paper to one page while the rest is given over to fluffy features. Meanwhile, Mr Targett has upset his former bosses at Associated Newspapers and Observer colleagues with his feature about how much Sir David English loved him. Those who worked with English were surprised to see Targett describe how English called him "my young genius" and said they were both "natural-born editors". It's not quite how they remember the relationship.

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ROBERT THIRKELL, the man responsible for the fly-on-the-wall documentary on L!ve TV, has the contract to do one on the Millennium Dome. He is in a quandry, however. Peter Mandelson is a very close friend. Does he make a dull programme where Mandy shows up occasionally in a statesmanlike way and makes the odd incisive comment about the Dome? Or does he do what he is best at, follow Mandy around constantly and stitch the Minister Without Portfolio up like a Janet Street-Porter? I know which will make the best documentary, but would it be his last?

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THEY SAY revenge is a dish best served cold, but Jonathan Miller, former business editor of the European managed to get his in while still piping hot. Since his days on The Sunday Times, Mr Miller has had something of a feud with former Tory minister Gerry Malone. When Mr Malone was appointed by his best friend Andrew Neil as editor of the European, Mr Miller knew his time was soon to be up. Less than two weeks ago he departed the company, purportedly for making a staff member cry. When an inebriated Mr Malone made unwanted sexual advances towards, and then slapped, his features editor, Nicola Davidson, (below) two weeks ago and the story made its way into the national press, it did not take a genius to work out who leaked the story. Especially if you were the one who took the call from Mr Miller.

MANY YEARS AGO the Sun's then editor Kelvin MacKenzie complained to the Press Council about this newspaper printing out in full a swear word used by cricketer Mike Gatting to describe an umpire. MacKenzie, no stranger to the word himself, was apoplectic at The Independent's frankness. The Sun's strange attitude to language has outlasted him. Last Friday on page nine, the paper quoted Linford Christie complaining that no-one ever asks about the size of Sally Gunnell's "t*ts". The word it seems is too strong for Sun readers, while the photographic representation of it, in the form of 23-year-old Shae - page-three girls' parents must know their daughters' profession when they christen them - was quite acceptable. It would take a semiotics professor to work out why one is more corrupting than the other.

FRESH FROM the triumph that was letting a lot of car-huggers criticise the green movement in her Against Nature series, Channel 4's science head Sarah Ramsden is preparing to give feminists a going over. The channel had to apologise to leading greens for misleading them when making Against Nature, so Why Men Don't Iron? should make scary viewing. Ms Ramsden is famous in her industry for saying you can't be a female producer and have children, so the programme's threat to "break the taboo on biological explanations" for the differences between the sexes is likely to look as if it's from the age of Harry Enfield's Mr Chumley-Warner.

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YOU CAN tell advertising is an industry that takes itself too seriously. Agencies title themselves with long strings of surnames as if they are lawyers, and now the industry body is contemplating a kind of professional charge of "bringing the industry into disrepute". The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising would come down heavy on anyone criticising other agencies' work. This would make impossible the only bit of Campaign magazine worth reading - "Private View", where an adman gets to be bitchy about his peers. But the idea seems unworkable. The industry's reputation is that it is run by ponytailed egotists who use cocaine and get unpleasant right- wing governments elected for 15 years. There is not much to bring into disrepute.

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ONCE THE leader column of The Times was reserved for great matters of state. The Thunderer's editor could fulminate on weighty issues and the ruling class would know how right-minded people should think. But price cuts and middlebrow stories have scared off this class and last week the leader was no better than an in-house advertising site. Former Times editors would have been shocked to see the column stoop so low as to plug an upcoming book serialisation.

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