Media: The Word on the Street

IN FRONT of a star-studded gathering of celebrities - well, Floella Benjamin, Bruce Grobbelaar, Robert Powell and others not in panto that day - The Express launched its millennium count-down clock last Wednesday: it was 500 days until the year 2000, apparently. As well as giving the paper the opportunity to punt strange facts from the last 1,000 years in each day's paper, this was also supposed to promote a scratch card game to run until the millennium in 16 months' time. Well, at least it would have done, if the clock hadn't stopped by the following morning.

THE DAILY Mail's royal correspondent Richard Kay should remember that the title does not confer royalty on the holder. Arriving in Omagh on Prince Charles's plane last week, he stuck so close to the royal party that when Prince Charles was on walkabout Mr Kay is reputed to have received a call on his mobile phone. It was the Buckingham Palace press office asking him to stand a bit further back from the Prince - on television he looked like part of the walkabout.

THE MIRROR Group has been going all out to prove what a dynamic, thrusting, businesslike place it is in the aftermath of the Sporting Life fiasco. David Montgomery even sent staff a widely leaked memo about the strength of Mirror Group's editors and the weaknesses of John Mullholland. Interesting, then, that this efficient organisation's website is so laughable: it lists Bridget Rowe (above) as editor of the Sunday Mirror - the current editor is Colin Myler; it says The People is edited by Len Gould - er, no, it's Neil Wallis; at the helm of the Daily Record it lists Terry Quinn - wrong again, it's Martin Clarke. The site maintains that Sporting Life, which is not currently on sale, has a circulation of 67,000, and that Kelvin MacKenzie is managing director of Live TV. It seems that even the most modern and interactive of new technologies is unable to keep up with the Mirror Group's rapid turnover of editors.

AMERICAN JOURNALISM has lost another one. Just a couple of months after two established hacks in Washington and Boston were found out for making things up, the Boston Globe has dispensed with the services of the improbably named Mike Barnicle. No too-eager young beaver he, Barnacle has been on the Globe for years and was reportedly paid $250,000 a year. First, at the beginning of the month he was caught out stealing jokes from a comedian's book and lying about it. Then, last week, a column from 1995 that was to be reprinted in Reader's Digest was discovered by the Digest to be fake. The column told the emotional story of a black child and a white child who became friends when they were both in hospital with cancer. Frankly, even if it had been true, such a saccharine tale would have deserved punishment.

NICE TO see that The Guardian is still sanguine about its spelling mistakes. From Friday's corrections column: "We spelt Morecambe, the town in Lancashire, wrong again on Page 2, G2, yesterday. We often do."

NO ONE grudges a newspaper editor the right to relax and take a break. At least, no one except executives at The Times who moan that Peter Stothard rarely graces the newspaper these days. After a sojourn with Rupert Murdoch at his Idaho gathering, the Times editor spent a week in New York looking at his paper's American distribution.

Next came a holidays, reportedly in Turkey and in Italy. Now he's bought a boat to play on when he's not at his home on the Thames. But not all the execs are grumbling about their leader's absence: one assistant editor has taken three months off.

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