Henry Deedes Media Diary: A Wapping drama in theatreland
Monday 28 July 2008
The editorial merry-go- round at The Times under the (newish) charge of James Harding has reached the paper's arts department.
Preparing to leave fortress Wapping for the last time is the paper's second-string theatre editor, Sam Marlowe, who has just been informed her annual contract will not be renewed. No reasons were given for its termination, however. I don't suppose the positive review she gave last month to Michael Frayn's Afterlife will have helped her cause.
In a four-star review, she praised the "cool precision" of Michael Blakemore's directing. "Frayn's erudition sparkles and there's a buoyant sense of fun in Blakemore's production to match its braininess," Marlowe enthused.
But Harding, who fancies himself as something of an amateur theatre buff, also took himself along to the National to catch the show and so loathed it that he descended into fury when he read Marlowe's praise for the production. No word yet on Marlowe's replacement, though I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised if Harding himself decides to give it a whirl.
Given that you can barely slide a fag paper between the position that The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail occupy in the market these days, I was surprised to learn the Telegraph's resident scoopmeister Andrew Pierce was among the guests at the Mail's recent glitzy bash at Hampton Court. I can only assume he was fulfilling the obligations of his second career as "walker" to the Mail's waspish columnist Amanda Platell.
Interestingly, however, I'm told Piercey spent part of the evening sandwiched deep in conversation between Paul Dacre and his deputy, Alistair Sinclair. Now, it would be deeply mischievous to suggest this was anything more than a friendly tête-à-tête with the Mail's editorial top brass, so I won't even go there. For now, anyway.
'Tis the season, of course, for summer parties. Pierce's colleague Celia Walden held her book launch at medialand's favourite hang-out, Soho House, just recently, which attracted the likes of Newsnight hottie Emily Maitlis and Sun editor Rebekah Wade.
The most notable sight of the evening, bar the Prime Minister's wife being refused entry by the dollies on the door, was Celia's squeeze, Piers Morgan, pressing palms with her father, former Tory MP and all-round sage, George Walden. Not too exciting, you might think, but a friend reckons this marks a significant thawing in diplomatic relations between the pair. "A bit like when Gorby and Reagan shook hands in Versoix back in '85," I'm told.
Speaking of Morgan, there are choppy waters ahead for Press Gazette, the trade magazine the former Mirror editor briefly owned with PR magnate Matthew Freud before it was placed into receivership. Rumour has it the mag's owner, Wilmington, is planning to turn the weekly into a monthly title from September. At the moment, no work is being commissioned beyond PG's 15 August edition.
Belt tightening everywhere, and not only in the printed press. Staff at London radio station LBC are also feeling the crunch. Producers have been told to keep a beady eye on costs and freelance pundits have been told there is no longer any money to pay them for their contributions to James O'Brien's enjoyable midday show.
Gosh, someone was getting a write old pasting when London Evening Standard literary critic David Sexton reviewed the new London eatery Wild Honey last week, and it sure wasn't the restaurant. "A nasty woman I used to know made choosing a restaurant into psychological warfare, like everything else she did," he wrote. "She would only ever make her choice after knowing what mine was and then, rather than simply going for what she actually wanted, her response was somehow meant as a put-down. "Naturally, in the terminal stages of this relationship I'd lie about what I intended to have until ordering so as to wrong foot the enemy." Just who on earth could Sexton be referring to? Surely not his ex, the Observer columnist Catherine Bennett?
Biggest media story of last week: Thursday's verdict on the Max Mosley/News of the World case where Mosely was awarded £60,000 in damages. Strange to note, then, that the most read story on the MediaGuardian website on Thursday was Times restaurant critic Giles Coren's expletive-laden email to a subeditor who had rejigged a sentence of an article of his and changed the meaning.
However wronged Coren might feel, his grievances should be positively microscopic compared with those of the poor editor of Valley News, a paper based in New Hampshire, who awoke last Monday morning to find the galley slaves on the back bench had accidentally rechristened his paper Valley Newss (sic) on the masthead.
"Readers may have noticed that Valley News misspelled its own name on yesterday's front page," ran an apology the following day. "Given that we routinely hold people accountable for their mistakes, let us say for the record: we sure feel silly."
An absolute shocker.
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