The Word On The Street

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The Independent Culture
THE MIRROR'S Piers Morgan is gracious in victory. "I feel truly humbled," he says, at the news that his paper has won a poll of its own readers to become "newspaper of the year". The victory, he admits, was hardly a surprise, after Saturday's Mirror, which asked readers to phone for the favourite newspaper, gave a slightly skewed description of its rivals.

According to the Mirror: The Independent wins lots of awards even though no one reads it outside Islington; The Guardian staff have to wear sandals and John Lennon glasses; the Financial Times has a secret motto, "If it's tedious we'll do yards on it"; and The Sun is "edited by an alien". "I intend to put `Newspaper of the Year' across the masthead," maintains the increasingly loopy Morgan. He claims the fact that 30 per cent of his own readers voted for other newspapers was down to The Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger "sitting at home hitting his redial button".

"Yes, I know I've lost the plot," he admits, "but it'll get up everyone's nose."

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THE DAILY STAR'S editor Peter Hill is clearly smarting under the news that when Chris Evans was planning to buy his paper he was also planning to replace him with the ex-FHM editor Mike Soutar. That, at least, is the explanation being offered inside the Star for an announcement at an editorial conference last week that the paper is no longer going to run stories about the Ginger DJ. Now, if we can only get Evans to put a bid in for The Sun and The Mirror as well, we'll have a result.

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PETER MANDELSON has obviously buried the hatchet with Lord Hollick after the Sunday Express interview with his Brazilian friend. The two were seen going off to lunch together from Ludgate House last week. Hollick has been busy making friends. Sunday Business, the Barclay brothers' title, is renting space vacated by Star journalists at Blackfriars so that its reporters don't have to schlep back to Docklands after lunch. Express Newspapers' need to sub-let space while Sunday Business expands is a clear indication of which way the wind is blowing in Fleet Street.

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NATO'S SHAMBOLIC handling of last week's air strike on a refugee column has prompted Downing Street to order Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's personal spin doctor, to Brussels for a radical overhaul of Nato's press operation. In Brussels, Mr Campbell discovered to his horror that Jamie Shea, the Nato spokesman, was running his press office with a skeleton team of one. Campbell said Mr Shea had done a "brilliant" job, but needed to have his team strengthened. Accordingly, Julian Braithwaite has been seconded to Mr Shea from No 10 for the duration.

Since Mr Campbell's arrival there has been better co-ordination of Nato's message that whoever is killed in Kosovo, the blame lies with Milosevic. One of Mr Campbell's strongest weapons in elections was the use of his rebuttal squad. It is likely that we shall soon see Nato start to unleash rebuttals as part of its media offensive.

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THE CONFLICT in the Balkans has allowed The Herald in Scotland to roll out one of journalism's sillier by-lines. Ian Bruce has his name resplendent upon the title "Geopolitics Editor". This is even grander than John Simpson's title of World Affairs Editor for the BBC and almost as silly as the Evening Standard's "Shopping Correspondent". But in an earlier life, The Independent boasted an Inner Cities Correspondent, so we are hardly in a position to mock.

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