Matthew Norman's Media Diary

Crisp bag shock horror revelations
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The Independent Online

The accusation of metrocentricity is often made against the media, and with some truth. This column, on the other hand, is firmly committed to pan-British media coverage, and to this end we begin today by celebrating a regional newspaper.

Given Nottingham's cherished reputation as a centre for firearms offences and drug wars, it came as small surprise to find a sensational crime story on the Evening Post's front page a week ago. "Trading standards officers say a rogue trader may be selling out-of-date crisps to pubs in Notts," began a report headlined "Pub crisp warning", alleging that "best before" dates had been removed from packets of Nobby's Crisps, as advertised on TV by Noddy Holder out of Slade.

Perhaps inevitably, given the scale of the crime, the evening paper in the town known as Gun City dedicated an inside page to fleshing out the facts. Officers were making standard checks on pub measures, wrote Kevin Peachey, when "one picked up a 50p packet of salt and vinegar Nobby's Crisps and found the 'best before' date missing. It was the same on balti chicken and steak flavours of the same brand." Inquiries with the landlord unearthed the fact that a trader in a white van, "who arrived unannounced", had sold the items, having also "ripped off an outer layer of cardboard, and added a simple rubber stamp reading 'December 2005' on the bottom of the boxes".

Yet, it isn't until paragraph 14 that the full extent of the problem becomes clear. "Surrounding pubs were not stocking the crisps," Kevin explained, "but inspectors around the country are on the alert." Please God, they've caught it in time.

Readers are invited to submit other outstanding work for our inaugural Local Scoop of the Year award, scheduled for April next year.

A WORRYINGLY unpompous e-mail arrives from John Whittingdale, the Heat magazine aficionado appointed chairman of the select committee on media, gently disputing the tone of remarks here about his hostile attitude towards the BBC. I remind John that any show of courtesy or good humour towards anyone or anything shows a marked lack of respect to the traditions established by his predecessor Sir Gerald Kaufman. This is his first and final public warning on the point.

SHOULD JOHN have missed last Thursday's interview with David Cameron on Today, I would ask him to investigate whether Jim Naughtie addressing the leadership contender as "David" is suggestive of BBC pro-Tory bias. It's not quite the "we" Jim used of the Labour Party during the election campaign, of course, but still a shade chummy for some tastes. As for Jim then putting the word "bollocks" into Walter Wolfgang's mouth, when all he said was "nonsense" ... well, it all seems a long way from Alvar Liddell, who never went further than "cobblers".

NEXT DAY Jim's co-presenter Sarah Montague raised the question: "Is there anyone like Shakespeare?" Yes, there is, Sarah, as you'd have well known had you only had the gumption to read that morning's Times. Roger Federer, wrote sports writer Simon Barnes, "is as myriad-minded as Shakespeare ever was". How true, how very true, and how absurd no one has made the point before. It is true, of course, that Shakespeare's top spin backhand down the line was vulnerable under pressure, while the late FR Leavis was famously suspicious of the Swiss's tendency to exaggerate the importance of tragic irony and to infuse his work with hidden religious codings. But Simon makes a valuable point. Sarah is reminded of the first rule of journalism (read the papers).

STILL WITH The Times, yet another rousing hats off for that title's refusal to yield to pressure from those who crudely caricature it as New Labour's house bulletin. On Thursday, when every other vaguely serious paper had a huge picture of Mr Wolfgang on its front page, it nimbly sidestepped the trap by sticking the story away on page two. It followed up the next day with an attempted humorous leader cleverly seeking to equivocate between Mr Wolfgang's offence and that of the people who frogmarched him from the hall ("disruptive sledging is as counterproductive as strong-armed security"). If editor Robert Thomson doesn't get that peerage in the next available honours list, I swear I'm going to set myself on fire at the Downing Street gates.

I AM distressed by the lack of acclaim for Daily Telegraph rock critic Neil McCormick, who delighted so many by releasing a single about the 7 July London bombing, at the urging of his great mate Bono. We are keen to trace the whereabouts of "People I Don't Know Are Trying To Kill Me", and if anyone should see it in any chart, shop or online download site, let us know at once, but do not approach it yourself, as it is said to be highly toxic. Happily, Neil is keeping his spirits up, and was overheard at a Robbie Williams press do telling his fellow recording artist:"Well, Robbie, at least I've had a track on an album featuring Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen." Again, details of this song, believed to be entitled "People I Do Know Are Trying To Kill Me", would be most welcome.

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