Fleet Street turns on its 'sirens of scandal'

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The Independent Online

Readers of the international glossy magazineVanity Fair are used to celebrities being effusively generous about each other. In the current issue they are introduced to life at the opposite end of the spectrum – British showbiz journalists bitching about each other.

The May issue has devoted a five-page article to the "3am Girls", the gossip columnists Jessica Callan and Eva Simpson, whose page in The Mirror each day publishes lurid reports and gossip on the parties of the night before.

Under the headline "Sirens for scandal", the antics of the 3am Girls earn the sort of admiration that many genuine celebrities would crave. However, it is a little ironic that the magazine, which famously enjoys a cosy relationship with Hollywood stars and their publicists, has chosen to celebrate the journalism of a newspaper that has recently embarked on a crusade against celebrity power.

After the atrocities of 11 September, the editor, Piers Morgan, announced that he would make The Mirror a more serious paper. As part of this approach he declared war on celebrities, vowing never again to allow them to approve articles or pictures before publication. Indeed, it is unprecedented for Vanity Fair to give such lavish coverage to a pair of British showbiz reporters, but the magazine is clearly intrigued by the way the two frequently make themselves part of the stories they cover, and delight in reporting the sexist comments made to them by some stars.

But Vanity Fair's international readership does get an insight into Fleet Street back-stabbing. Dominic Mohan, The Sun's showbiz editor, was asked for his opinion of the girls. He said: "They're a national joke. They're quite nice girls but they're not proper journalists. I've interviewed Madonna and Sting and Elton John and Paul McCartney ... Why aren't you doing a story about me?"

Perhaps also in the market for a Vanity Fair profile is Peter McKay of the Daily Mail, who is quoted as saying: "They're liggers. They troll around these parties hoping to be thrown out so they can write something rude."

Jessica Callan said: "The celebrities fear us ... When they're at parties and they're not surrounded by agents and PR people and they confront people like us something clicks. They're usually drunk or on drugs or whatever and they lose it, and it's brilliant."

Mr Morgan said: "I've created the monsters. They're my little James Bonds. They create mayhem and have fun and bring something really fresh to the showbiz reporting scene. I treat them as stars."

But they are stars in need of sympathy, according to Mr McKay. "It's a new chauvinism whereby laddish editors like Piers Morgan set up young women to see what they do in lavatories, these B- and C-list stars. It's a Charlie's Angels fantasy, a man sitting behind his desk as his 'angels' go and avenge him against celebrities and publicists. In an odd way, the 3am Girls are victims."