Friday, March 17, 2017

Not your Standard editor, Mr Osborne

George Osborne’s appointment as editor of the Evening Standard, odd, daft even, as it may seem, is in one way, little more than the natural progression of modern journalism.

And it speaks volumes for where those with the power to hire and fire seem to see the role these days.

There's clear conflict with his job as cheerleader for investment fund but he won’t be the first senior hack to have held high office in politics. After all, most of us have done our fair share of moonlighting, even though we didn’t get paid £650 for a day a week.

But if the hon member for Tatton thinks editing an evening paper is something he can knock off before lunch and nipping across town to help run the country, he’s in for a rude awakening.

The days of the gentleman editor, poking his head into the newsroom once in a while to put a hand on the tiller between entertaining the great and the good and pontificating from platforms went out with the rest of the staff they had to make redundant.

Editing a paper at a time of wide-ranging constitutional chaos, when your plummeting circulation won’t even sustain a paying readership and when there’s a new app every week threatening to deliver the same message in a more relevant and appealing way, needs to be more overtime than full time.

I don’t blame him for not knowing that. He probably knows as little about newspapers as I do about running the Treasury. But his staff will, his boss should and the readers, such as they are, may well too.

Conflicts abound even if here is merit in having the capital’s premier publication toughing up as a battering ram against Theresa May’s runaway Brexit rollercoaster. But it’s not a part-time job and should be far more than just something to fit in between Commons, constituency, and consultancy.

David Miliband responded to the news by Tweeting that he was about to be named the next editor of Heat magazine. Tim Farron joked he should apply to edit Viz.

Joking aside, at least they would be more do-able, given their lead times and publication cycles.

Osborne inherits a seriously strong editorial team. He will have to learn fast if he is to impress them. And to do that he'll have to put in the hours and treat it with the respect it deserves and not as a high-profile and comparatively low-paid indulgence.

Either way, the issue is less about where it leaves the Evening Standard, more a case of what it says about the way we see newspapers these days.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

You don’t need long knives to put down a Fox

When a fellow Leicester fan remarked as we lined the streets to watch our heroes pass with the Premiership trophy: “can you imagine anything better than this?” there was a universal shaking of heads.

But I had one further scenario in mind. If I could perhaps, don the mascot suit and run out with the team for the first home game of the following season, that would probably, I had to admit, put the topping on the pizza.

As a fan since schooldays, a former club member/shareholder and proud over of an actual brick from the rubble of the actual now-demolished City Stadium, a chance to be Filbert Fox for 90 minutes would have cemented a lifelong relationship with the club like little else.

But after last Thursday’s disgusting dismissal of our now-legendary manager Claudio Ranieri the only image I had in mind was this fittingly poignant one created by Telegraph cartoonist Matt Pritchet. The one where a club official brought a vet to the stadium and told him: “We’d like to have the team’s mascot put down.” And they might as well have done, as most of Fleet Street seemed to recognise with equally-fitting attacks on the club’s Thai owners for managing to turn football’s greatest fairytale into a sordid and sorry soap opera of back-stabbing and deceit.

Like most of Matt’s cartoons, it said in a picture what many columnists would take an inside-back dps to do: you might as well kill the mascot, they’ve already killed the spirit of the club.

How reassuring then to see fellow Italian Jose Mourino wear the initials CR on his chest at a press conference the following day.

He may have been echoing what the Milan-based daily Gazzetta dello Sport described with their splash: Inglesi Ingrati (ungrateful English).

Or he may just have been giving us a subtle lesson in the sort of humility, good grace and sense of fair play few involved in this sorry affair, if not the current game, would understand.

What do I mean? Semplice: A season earlier, the same thing had happened to him when he was sacked by Chelsea only a few months after having won them Premiership title. And he isisted that, while it was “a giant negative” in his career – “I realise it was peanuts to what happened with Claudio”.

And which was the game that cold December day that sealed his fate? Only an embarassing 2-1 defeat at the hands of Ranieri’s Leicester City.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Time to play the Trump card

Why was it only Associated Press and TIME Magazine that had the presence of mind to act appropriately when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer hand-picked a select group of journalists for a private “gaggle” in his office.

The off-camera gathering with news outlets seen as less hostile to the Trump regime (and I chose that word deliberately) was a way of blocking the likes of CNN, BBC, The New York Times, LA Times, New York Daily News, BuzzFeed, The Hill, and the Daily Mail from attending a regular press briefing.

The chosen few included the rightist Breitbart News, One America News Network, and The Washington Times, all of whom attended.

White House Correspondents’ Association president Jeff Mason immediately called on those allowed in to share the material with press corps colleagues locked out. Whether they will or not remains to be seen. But it’s surely the least they can do, given they didn’t have the mettle to take the AP/Time route – and boycott it.