Bill Hagerty on the Press

Even with a detailed A to Z, Piers managed to lose his way
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The Independent Online

Never mind the book, what about the index? We all know that anyone who has had even a passing acquaintance with an author will turn immediately to the back for a name-check before seriously contemplating buying a copy. If this is the case with Piers Morgan's much-hyped diary, sales should boom. With upwards of 950 names mentioned in 466 pages of text, the "cast of characters" and the full index take longer to read than the average newspaper.

Never mind the book, what about the index? We all know that anyone who has had even a passing acquaintance with an author will turn immediately to the back for a name-check before seriously contemplating buying a copy. If this is the case with Piers Morgan's much-hyped diary, sales should boom. With upwards of 950 names mentioned in 466 pages of text, the "cast of characters" and the full index take longer to read than the average newspaper.

The cast list - first names in alphabetical order - stretches from the "hated" A A Gill (see this column's other item) to Zsa Zsa Gabor, and the index from Ali Ismaeel Abbas to Catherine Zeta-Jones. Piers drops so many names it's a wonder the floor doesn't crack under the impact.

The serialisation of The Insider* in the Daily Mail revealed his experiences with the political and royal contacts that flutter around newspaper editors under the mistaken impression that they wield huge influence with the public. But it is Piers' anecdotes about lesser celebrities and his fellow journalists, plus the often amusing recollections of some of his excesses, that say more about the man who became a better known national figure than many of those featured in the pages of his Daily Mirror.

Adrian Gill - "obsequiously smarming" around Madonna - was obviously never top of Piers' Christmas card list, so he takes delight in recounting how, when taken to lunch by Gill's girlfriend, the journalist Nicola Formby, she showed him "20-odd pictures of her completely starkers".

The Mirror's gratuitous abuse of Private Eye editor Ian Hislop - the "moon-faced little midget" - is gleefully recalled, but justified only by the claim that his roles on a "piss-taking" magazine and television show made him fair game. Nothing to do with Piers' disastrous appearance on Have I Got News For You? - "It all went quite amusingly," recorded Morgan, apparently blind to the drubbing he had taken - or the Eye's observations on his private life and dubious share dealing. Honest.

His antipathy towards David Yelland, then editor of The Sun, is not properly explained, presumably because he doesn't want to rake over the rival paper's disquiet at his relationship with its then employee Marina Hyde, but Morgan claims to have kept in his desk drawer a "Yelland voodoo doll, with pins to insert". When Rosie Boycott, then editor of the Daily Express, "allows" her diarist to "stick it" to him, Morgan invents a news story, " Express editor faces the axe", and after a legal letter of complaint arrives, "I laughed out loud. For several minutes."

He delights in winding people up for fun, yet retaliates with venom to any real or imagined slight, or what he sees as intrusion into his privacy. It will be fascinating to witness how he sticks it to his enemies now he doesn't have a newspaper to use as a bludgeon.

But it wasn't all Blair and Brown, Di and Fergie, and Hislop- and Yelland-baiting. Morgan's social life was every bit as rumbustious as his style of editing. Here he is, with his wife, at dinner with his friend, Marco Pierre White, at the chef's Mirabelle restaurant and asking just how expensive is the copious amounts of wine they were drinking. White produces a printout of the bill: food, £260; wine, £26,000. There are lunches, with dirty jokes and scurrilous gossip on the menu, at Harrods with Mohamed Al Fayed. There are drunken episodes at the British Press Awards and japes at monthly Mirror lunches, at one of which he accepts a newsdesk bet that he can get guests to discuss lesbian sex before the pudding.

The Insider is a self-portrait of a rather insecure boy playing with a train set he can't quite handle on his own. As an editor, Piers Morgan, on occasion, displayed stunning flair and commendable editorial bravery. Just imagine how good he might have been when he grew up.

*Ebury Press, £17.99.

Where has all the hate gone?

The general disdain felt by the public for print journalists manifests itself in strange ways, but not by representation on the latest talked-about website, www.hated-celebrities.com - an open house for web-surfers to deal glancing blows to those who irritate them or, in the case of many I suspect, drive them to foam at the mouth and climb walls.

More than 1,000 celebrities were listed last time I looked, but these included few newspaper journalists whose notoriety is not enhanced by a strong presence on television. A A Gill gets in there, presumably for being too much of a smartypants in print, as does The Mail on Sunday's political Rottweiler Peter Hitchens, Daily Mirror trenchant columnist Brian Reade and, inexplicably, Dominic Mohan, The Sun gossip writer recently promoted to an executive role.

The rest among the tiny journalistic contingent are more widely known for their television appearances: Ian Hislop, Janet Street-Porter, Jeremy Clarkson, Piers Morgan, Vanessa Feltz and Eve Pollard, who scores a unique double in that her presenter daughter, Claudia Winkleman, left, is also listed. Radio is represented by Nick Ferrari, the LBC breakfast show's reactionary host, leaving the rest of the fourth estate lumped together under the heading "all gutter trash journalists" - come on, you know who you are.

Perhaps we should be grateful that the press isn't strongly represented on a hate list, but our absence could, far from making hearts grow fonder, indicate just how scant is the public interest in newspapers. Now they can't be bothered even to hate us.

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