Matthew Norman: All academic for high-minded Mr Coulson


As the shameful bullying of News International continues unabated, the one you feel especially sorry for is that lovable Wapping old boy Andy Coulson. Has any one-time editor ever been so wilfully misunderstood as the last great gentleman amateur of the red-top press?

To the remorseless questioning of what the Tory communications chief knew about News of the World subordinates hacking phones is added an allegation that he hired a freelance investigator freshly liberated from a spell as Her Majesty's house guest.

What his accusers pretend not to know is that Mr Coulson was to the NoW what Peregrine Worsthorne once was to The Sunday Telegraph. The title of editor was largely honorific, his responsibilities confined to steering the political coverage (resolutely pro-Labour, as it happens, but a girl has every right to change her mind). An effete and scholarly type whose conferences were described by one executive as, "very much on the lines of the All Souls high table the night Isaiah Berlin and Bertrand Russell had that ding dong about early enlightenment neoclassical architecture", Mr Coulson – and I cannot stress this often or categorically enough – never concerned himself with the nuts and bolts. "The thing about Andy," as one imaginary source put it to me last week, "was that he was too high minded for the day-to-day stuff. He'd sit there looking down, a paperback of Plato's Republic or whatever, open on his legs, while the rest of us yakked on about Kerry Katona and Gazza. Bless him, he thought Max Clifford was a pointillist painter."

Now let's leave Mr Coulson in peace to continue doing such a bang up job propagating the Conservative electoral message, whatever that might be.

Murdoch fan

As for his former employer, News International's response to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report was so opaque you'd need to be a top ranked media Kremlinologist to read between the lines. On balance, my guess is that the sweethearts weren't especially thrilled, and if so who can blame them? This committee was, as the company's heavily encrypted statement may have hinted, overtly and disgracefully biased against it from the start. As the News International statement tactfully declined to mention, when its chairman John Whittingdale was asked once which media figure he most admires, "Rupert Murdoch" was the answer.

Chiles feels the chill

Concerns mount that BBC1 controller Jay Hunt may be a Trojan horse within the gates of White City by ITV. If there's a better explanation for Ms Hunt's effort to drive away Adrian Chiles by replacing him on an extended, celeb-fixated Friday One Show with Chris Evans I can't think what it is. You hire a chap to present a magazine show hardly expected to be a hit, a couple of years on he has made it a ratings and critical triumph, so you reward him with the public humiliation of being reduced to a glorified warm-up man (not to mention lumbering co-presenter Christine Bleakely with a hideous conflict of loyalties) ... If nothing else, it's a refreshingly original approach to handling the talent.

TFI Friday?

As for Mr Evans, you will recall how he once flounced away from the Radio 1 Breakfast Show because he adamantly refused to work on Fridays. This inability to make up his mind must be rather wearing on the nerves.

Who is the BBC producer?

One day after the National Audit Office savaged the BBC for profligacy, The Times splashed with news that the Beeb is to close two radio stations, halve the size of its website and cut spending on US imports. How Patrick Foster came by this scoop, revealed in the minutest detail over three pages of Friday's Thunderer is anyone's guess. But we'd like to make it clear that the timing, however curious, was purest coincidence; and that it remains far beneath the dignity of BBC management, let alone that splendid Trust, to leak internal plans for no other purpose than short-term damage limitation.

Sick Mail

Tremendous to see the Daily Mail learning from its mistakes. The paper that did so much to alert parents to the phantasmal link between MMR and autism last week lavished all the rigorous, fact-checking accuracy medical reports demand on a cheerier tale.

Britain's youngest prostate cancer at SEVEN months old cured by pioneering therapy," was the headline above an unbylined account of how US doctors treated Huddersfield infant Ruddi Waterforth-Jones. The picture of the baby on his grinning mother's knee was a delight, a couple of the comments beneath this on the website less so. "My son did not and never has had prostate cancer," wrote a Mrs Alison Waterforth-Jones. "I do not know how this newspaper has got my son's story, and it certainly did not have my permission to print it." Peter Ronal, MD, PhD, Salem, Oregon, said the story was, "highly misleading".

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