Bill Hagerty on the Press

Editors should stay off TV - except for superstar Boris

It's hard to believe that not so long ago, editors of national papers or news magazines would no more think of flirting with show business than they would of joining a conga line along Fleet Street.

It's hard to believe that not so long ago, editors of national papers or news magazines would no more think of flirting with show business than they would of joining a conga line along Fleet Street.

While there are those who would argue that in a world where the drinking was ferocious, a conga was not out of the question come the end of a convivial evening, the fact is that editors did not appear on television game shows, talk shows or celebrity quizzes. Editors were not national celebrities and even those considered giants within journalism remained relatively unknown outside it, unless they had a story to sell on the news. (Yes, Arthur Christiansen embraced the movies, but waited until he had vacated his chair at the Daily Express before giving a passable imitation of himself in The Day the Earth Caught Fire.)

Only occasionally did senior print industry figures respond to television's voracious appetite for "personalities" - Eve Pollard moonlighted from the editorship of the Sunday Mirror and, later, the Sunday Express, on Through the Keyhole. The Sunday Times' Andrew Neil was, perhaps, the first seriously to link arms with fame, although his many appearances were and are largely confined to political programmes scoring high in the cut-and-thrust of debate, but low in audience ratings.

And then along came Piers, the first to springboard via television to celebrity so great that his surname became superfluous. This has stood him in good stead: Morgan may be a yesterday man at the Mirror, but television has adopted him as one of its own. Yet Piers' flight down a new career path appears almost subdued compared to the editor whose personality has exploded in all directions - some of which he would have preferred to avoid - and, according to a television profile aired on Saturday, established him as "a national figure" and "elevated him to the ranks of Britain's leading comedians". He is, claimed BBC4's documentary on The Spectator, another of those luminaries whose Christian name brings instant identification. Boris is the very first editor superstar.

A mixture of eccentricity, jovial good nature and what his erstwhile proprietor Conrad Black described as "pseudo-bungling" has seen him succeed as editor of a thriving magazine, a Conservative Member of Parliament and a television performer who makes the late Tommy Cooper's act look a model of discipline. Never mind that a personal peccadillo saw him jettisoned from the Opposition front bench last year; Johnson is only 40 years old and his celebrity still in its infancy.

In the BBC film, The Guardian's Polly Toynbee, who was romanced by the younger brother of Johnson's mother, recalled first seeing Boris as a six-month-old " fat, pink, naked baby". "He hasn't changed much since then," she mused (although, as far as I am aware, Johnson restricts his nakedness to his private life), and also observed: "He doesn't know anything at all." Don't be daft: what Boris knows is how to play his audience - on television, in the House or on the hoof - as if bowing a perfectly tuned fiddle.

Black referred to Boris's "especially unusual personality", but questioned his loyalty, and Charles Moore went further, suggesting Boris shared a certain quality with the late movie heart-throb Errol Flynn: "You knew where you were with Errol - he'd always let you down." Meanwhile, Boris burbled charmingly, whether scorning calls from politically correct critics to sacking columnist Taki for his extreme views, or explaining that "you won't find much red-in-tooth-and-claw socialism in The Spectator". How true, Boris.

Any editors contemplating entering the public arena by such gateways as Top Gear or Have I Got News For You should forget it. Boris has been there, done that and got the rumpled T-shirt. He's the incandescent exception to the rule that editors should be heard - through their newspapers - and not seen. Dacre, Thomson, Newland, Wade and the rest are right: all but Boris should leave stardom to the stars.

Be a Diamond and return the £3,000

In the early 1980s, a People writer named Graham Ball broke the story of a relationship between the television presenter Anne Diamond and her producer, Mike Hollingsworth, who happened to be married to someone else at the time. Diamond and Hollingsworth, employing the skills of the formidable Peter Carter-Ruck, promptly issued a writ for libel.

After some customary legal arm wrestling, the couple changed their minds and sued for peace, offering to withdraw the action if Mirror Group agreed to pay their costs. MGN, represented by Geoffrey Bindman - a libel advocate second to none, then and now - politely declined, but did consent to a settlement in which each side paid their own expenses. Just weeks later, Diamond and Hollingsworth acknowledged that they were indeed an item. When The People, having coughed up about £3,000 for legal fees, drew attention to this, Hollingsworth again complained, claiming that he and the woman he later married were not involved at the time of Ball's original piece.

Fast-forward 20 years or so, to last week's serialisation of Anne Diamond's autobiography in the Daily Mail. "My affair with Mike had been incredibly passionate," she writes, "but also painful, because he was married." It could be that consummation did not take place until after The People exposé, of course, but, if so, surely the paper can take credit for helping the couple into the sack and for their subsequent, if doomed - shame - marriage. Either way, and especially with The People having hit hard times, I reckon the paper deserves its £3,000 back.

media@independent.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
businessHow bosses are inventing unusual ways of making us work harder
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
news
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Management Accountant

£30-35k + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Management Accoun...

UI Designer / UX Designer

£40 - 60k + Amazing Benefits: Guru Careers: A UI Designer / UX Designer is nee...

SEO Manager / SEO Expert / Head of Search

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: An SEO Manager / SEO Expert is needed to join an inno...

Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

£30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?