I MENTIONED last month the strange atmosphere around the Evening Beast office that had got my old hack’s nose twitching. I also mentioned that a recently-departed national newspaper editor had written a splendid piece on how it’s not the big things that get you sacked but the myriad of little things. So I thought I’d better start making a list of all the minor offences I’d committed in the past couple of years. And here it is.
I stole the mahogany toilet seat our managing director, the Eminence Grease, had installed in his private khazi and hung it on the wall of the journos’ boozer.
I refused to apologise to a big advertiser after he invented some imaginary error in an ad feature in an attempt to get his bill reduced. And then ran a story based on complaints to Trading Standards about his business.
I signed off Tommy Cockles’ expenses claim for ‘reverse mileage’ – ‘You know, when you’ve missed an address and have to reverse back? It all uses petrol boss.’I then threatened an accountant with minor violence when he queried the claim.
I created a ‘phantom’ department called News Features where I hid non-existent employees, so when I was told I had to lose staff, I lost non-existent ‘phantom’ staff, rather than people with families and mortgages.
I overdid it one night at a weekend group conference and didn’t emerge from bed on the Sunday until the EastEnders theme tune was on the telly.
I snuck out of that same conference on the Saturday lunchtime, hidden under a blanket in the back of a car, to go and watch the local Football League club play.
I crept into the office of the Eminence Grease to put an open copy of Razzle on his coffee table while he was out in reception welcoming the new Bishop to his office.
I put a tea boy in the bin. I put a news editor in the bin. I put a fag end in the bin, thus setting fire to the newsroom. And the tea boy.
But it’s not all about me, so I hit the phones and spoke to current and former colleagues about their own indiscretions. Here are just a few.
‘I wanted to bring back the Saturday night sports paper, but management wouldn’t sanction it. So I ran a poll in the paper which had such an overwhelming result that they couldn’t not do it.”
‘I took the troops to the Press Gazette awards via plane, taxi and canal barge. It was cheaper than going on the fucking train, but the bean-counters were still offended by the imaginary extravagance.”
‘I sent a freelance reporter to report the bullying managing director’s third drink-drive case, even though he had somehow managed to get it moved to a court 60 miles away from base. And then I stood over paste-up the next morning to make sure that the bullying managing director couldn’t force the comps to pull it from the page.”
‘I was caught on CCTV with a coke-addled prostitute complaining that she hadn’t been paid, jumping up and down on the bonnet of my company car outside the office early one morning.”
I can’t verify all of them, but I do know that the last one is certainly true.
This is an extract from the March column in Press Gazette. For the full version, go and subscribe on the home page.