Issue # 193

This Week

It was Wayzgoose yesterday and the entire staff took a charabanc down to the coast at Helvetica, went on the toot, and they haven’t been heard from since.

Leaving the editor to mooch about, catch up with his reading and discover (in something he found in the litter bin) that there were 421 stories about the Royal Wedding in the British papers last week… of which 127 mentioned Kate Middleton.

Yes. Do the maths. There were nearly 300 stories about the Royal Wedding last week – that didn’t mention who was getting married. Reporters, eh? Or do we assume that the names were subbed out?

Amazing, is it not? But is it even more amazing that there are people out there compiling statistics like that? We’re blessed by the fact that a registered charity – the Media Standards Trust, which has tasked itself to protect readers from the falling standards of newspapers – has assumed this onerous chore.

Any day now we’ll be seeing commercials on the telly saying that for only two pounds a month we could keep a statistician in Evian. Or maybe they’ll train monkeys to do it.

Cartoonist Rudge has noticed that standards are dipping, though. Scroll down.

And, talking of newspaper standards, before he went on the razz Harold Heys filed an update on what’s happening at the Sunday Sport.

Admittedly it’s a publication that causes a bit of a dilemma at Palazzo Ranti, where the question is whether it’s actually a newspaper, or journalism, at all. (You can’t buy it on the sunshine island of San Serif, so we hesitate to pass judgment.)

The decision is made on the basis that, whatever it is, it’s jobs for the boys who would otherwise have been unemployed following the mass withdrawal from the north as a print centre. Let them have their fun. If you can throw up (we use the expression nicely) a totally loony idea, you have somewhere to sell it.

Otherwise, we are leaving you this week to stroll down the nearside lane, check out the goodies in Column One, read the archive, play with the Search engine to see whether you or your mates are there, learn some English from Doctor Syntax, and browse through some jolly tales in The Stab (which is what we called the diary, when we ran one).

Save yourself some money by reading the specially written Tax Guide.

And read about the books we have published (or republished) – just for you.

You may even get some inspiration to write something yourself.

Meanwhile, thanks for all the stories about getting started in newspapers. There are some good tales and we’ll start running them next week. Feel free to contribute your own in the meantime.

Or buy the book that started it – An Ideal Occupation by Walter Schwarz. It’s available right now from the usual sources, from amazon or (with free delivery worldwide) from Book Depository, or Waterstones, Barnes & Noble or amazon in the US, or on order from any half-decent bookshop.

Have a happy Easter.

See you next week.

#

World of Sport

By Harold Heys

There are several things an aspiring journalist has to master. For example: a) The house rules over expenses, b) the nearest pub where you can regularly strap a few quid and c) the girls in advertising who are up for a good night out. Oh, and not bothering The Boss when he – or she – is off on holiday.

Murray Morse, editor-in-chief of the Sunday Sport and its daily till the wheels came off three weeks ago, took the liberty of contacting David Sullivan who was on a getting-away-from-it-all holiday in Dubai.

The Morse plan – more of an ‘outline proposal’, I am told – involved cutting staff including two editors and Mark Harris who had been running the sports desk as well as ten or more galley slaves and cutting the picture desk to just one. He outlined a lot of ideas that he said he had been working on – ‘a restructure plan’, he called it.

There would be revenue from magazine ideas he had had ‘in the pipeline’ and new print deals could be negotiated through his contacts. ‘We could start with a blank sheet of paper and build a team that we need at the price we want to pay’.

David Sullivan, perhaps a little more concerned with the plight of his relegation-threatened West Ham United and the occasional wispy cloud floating high over the paradise (if you are seriously loaded) of Dubai, was unimpressed.

He told Morse that, sadly, being off the stands for a few weeks wouldn’t help to make the paper viable. And added: ‘Really all the things you were “working on” should have been done months ago so you could have paid the bank and not found the paper in the position it’s in’. Rather harsh. Morse had taken more than £1 million out of budgets and gone through two rounds of redundancies. He had tried to save as many jobs as he could.

And over that first traumatic weekend no one else seemed to be doing very much at all. An insider told me that Morse had got back on to Sullivan and pointed out that most of his ideas had been with MD Andrew Fickling for weeks. And he also told him that no one in editorial had had a clue that the Sport had defaulted on payments to Richard Desmond’s Broughton Printers – the last nail in the papers’ coffin.

Mark Harris was probably the last person to ‘get rid of’ as Morse put it. He was Sunday Sport editor for a time and had been Tony Livesey’s right-hand man. He’d done just about every job on the paper over a lot of years.

Harris came up with a Grand Plan and Sullivan, focused on bringing back just the Sunday, has gone for it. Staff will be slashed to a handful. Word is that Harris will act as MD, Nick Appleyard, editor for the past three years, will continue in that role and they will have just three staff subs and three or four others. There will also be a casual budget which they will certainly need. It is expected to resurface on May 8.

Meanwhile, the experienced Murray Morse, former editor of the Cambridge Evening News, and many other journalists are looking for jobs. Morse took on a hell of a challenge when he took over in July 2008 after a disastrous relaunch that spring. It was on its knees and cynics gave it two or three months.

He’s probably quite proud that he helped to stretch three months to nearly three years. An old friend who worked there told me: ‘To be fair, no one tried harder to save jobs at the end.’He said Murray had told him: ‘I did my best. Some you win; some you lose.’ He has wished the new venture every success but it’s difficult to see how it can grow on such a shoestring operation. It would be a pity if it didn’t make it.

The Guardian says that Sullivan offered the administrators ‘less than £1million’ for the Sunday Sport title. A lot less, I am assured. Probably less than £100,000. Work got under way almost immediately, moving computers and files out to new offices in Ardwick, a mile to the east of the Manchester city centre and the paper’s former HQ by the old Express building at Ancoats.

The Sunday Sport has had a colourful place among British newspapers for nearly 25 years since David Sullivan launched it as ‘the world’s most outrageous newspaper.’ Its staff have included some real characters; from the loud and the loopy to the charmers and the chancers. But real pros through and through.

I hope it can keep going for another 25 years.

###