Axe Grinder 14.09.06

Is Telegraph retouching pictures? Fat chance, so it should print this letter…

THE readers' letters are always good fun in The Daily Telegraph, yet they still haven't found the room to publish this particular letter, which was sent in by former staff man David Loshak… Loshak writes: "How ‘truthful' or ‘honest' are photos in The Daily Telegraph these days? I presume you would agree that it would be professionally unethical to retouch photographs to support exaggerations in a news story?"

He goes on to say that "suspicion arises" because of a snap which accompanied an article headed ‘Can Posh lose any more weight?'

Writes Loshak: "My wife, who is a trained commercial artist and a therapist who deals with anorexia and similar conditions, is convinced that the photo of Victoria Beckham has been re-touched, and badly at that, to ‘accentuate the negative'. My wife points in particular to the physically unlikely disparity between the skinniness of the left upper arm compared with the forearm and (making allowances for perspective) the unlikely thinness of the left leg compared with the right. My wife feels sure that the picture has, at the very least, been retouched."

Loshak added that he has been a Telegraph reader for the past 60 years and was a reporter and staff correspondent for 20 of them (1963-83).

"I feel sure that she is wrong. Could you please help to ward off a marital implosion? I would value your candid answer, because I think — at the risk of sounding pompous — that there might be an important point of journalistic principle here."

Still no response from "acting" editor John Bryant… three months after Loshak asked the question.

GPW's scoop pooh-poohed

MUCH hilarity at Westminster over the attempt by Sun political editor George Pascoe Watson to pinpoint the date of Tony Blair's departure as 31 May.

His rivals believe he was forced to pluck the date out of the air after being "kicked around the office" by Sun editrix Rebekah Wade.

She was furious at the Daily Mirror's leaked memo scoop which detailed plans for Tony Blair's Sinatra-style farewell tour.

Under-pressure GPW — as he likes to style himself these days — subsequently came up with the speculative 31 May. Even the most ardent Blairites believe the longest the PM will survive is 4 May — the day after elections in Scotland and Wales — with many believing he will be lucky to see in the New Year at Number 10.

An undaunted GPW headed off to be quizzed on Sky News by his girlfriend Kay Burley in an attempt to give his story legs.

But the delightful Kay sparked incredulous guffaws across Westminster when she referred on-air to GPW as "a man in the know".

Meanwhile, the Mirror picked up on GPW's 31 May "scoop" and duly splashed on it in later editions. "We'd have been better off picking up dog shite," observes one Mirror reporter.

Lovely prose, ugly mood

CLEARLY there are two sides to Kate Simon of The Independent.

Readers get the sweet-natured, globetrotting journalist who treasures travelling with her family. "We are on our first trip to Tuscany. We hear its gentle landscape is gorgeous, its food superb, its wines divine… Our daily diet is a feast of salty hams, fat tomatoes, soft ripe cheeses, crusty ciabatta and the fine local Brunello wine."

Then there was another family trip: "We are off to Sardinia… We are dreaming of blue skies and bluer seas, seeking shelter from the burning sun beneath a stripy umbrella, hoping for balmy evenings spent sipping crisp, green Vermentino wine on the terrace."

All very charming.

In the office, meanwhile, colleagues witness the other side of Simon. She is becoming increasingly irritated by staffers who make personal phone calls near her desk while she is trying to write her cheery, gentle prose.

Simon has been huffing loudly. Now she has despatched this petrifying email to The Indy's hacks: "Can people stop making phone calls behind sport and travel! We're even uglier when we're angry."

Will Sunny rip the Phillips tome to shreds?

DAILY Mail columnist Melanie Phillips's publishers have received a request to send the Fabian Review a copy of her book, Londonistan. The FR says it wants to review the book and when the publishers, out of curiosity, asked what the context of the review was going to be, the answer was: "Quite balanced…but there's a rush — can you get a copy sent over straight away?"

Phillips might like to avoid reading the critique in Fabian. I learn that her book is to be reviewed by Sunny Hundal, editor of the Asians in the Media website and the man who (you'll recall) previously laid into Phillips on the Guardian media website, saying: "I have on various occasions said that ripping apart Melanie Phillips's arguments is like taking candy from a baby…"

Only time will tell what level of "ripping" he has planned for his critique of her book.

Heffer and Boris ‘are underused'!

IN The Observer's media section, media business correspondent James Robinson reveals that The Telegraph and ITN are to form a "strategic partnership".

This, insists Robinson, "will change the face of the British media industry" — even though Telegraph hacks suspect it's more about saving money.

Doubtless, they'll be intrigued by one line in Robinson's story: "Executives at the Telegraph believe its roster of wellknown journalists, including Simon Heffer and Boris Johnson, are an underused asset."

Will David Cameron and the voters of Henley agree that gaffe-prone Tory MP Johnson should be doing even more journalism? And God only knows what Heffer makes of the suggestion he is an underused asset!

Does Trinity Mirror matter — or mutter?

JOURNALISTS at Trinity Mirror are both surprised and delighted to find themselves being invited to NUJ Journalism Matters meetings on the official company intranet.

Trinity's tendency to put shareholder profits before quality journalism and recent job and budget cuts are often the focus of such meetings, and editorial staff feel it was very big of the company to shoot themselves in the foot in such a fair-minded fashion.

One insider says: "Among the articles about fantasy football and reporters dressing up as medieval monks, I was delighted see one about the union's campaign. I'd always thought Trinity Mirror wanted journalism which mutters — not matters.

"Here on the good ship Trinity we have rarely been able to hear the management urge us to union meetings above the sound of the cracking of the whip, but perhaps there has finally been a change of heart.

"We are even considering inviting Sly Bailey to come to the next Journalism Matters meeting to unburden herself about past sins against quality journalism.

"But we are quick to forgive and look forward to future postings about increases in editorial funding, new recruitment drives and wage rises to bring our salaries in line with other professions. Annual five-figure bonuses would be nice too…"

Birthday car crash and no Joy for Helen

THERE'S a nice postscript to the tale about Joy Lo Dico, the reporter who quit the Daily Mail's diary because she couldn't "stomach" working for the paper ("and at the moment I don't want to work places that I can't square with my own conscience").

As mentioned last week, Lo Dico sent her resignation email to Richard Kay's deputy, Helen Minsky, but at that point I was unaware of Minsky's response.

Now I can tell you that it was: "Dear Joy, I am not angry. It is my birthday today. I had a car crash on the way to work. If you can come in for the rest of the week, it would be v helpful."

Minsky does not mince her words.

Does Piennar need a kick to the groin?

RADIO Five Live staff are worried about political correspondent John Piennar. His voice is now becoming so deep and gruff that it is often hard to hear, not just for listeners but even for people around the studio table with him. Colleagues wonder if, short of a kick in the groin, there is anything they can do to make Big John's voice a bit higher.

Baz, Andrew in The Sound of Blog Argument

TALK about the power of the Press (Gazette). No sooner had I pointed out that Baz Bamigboye was neglecting his blog — he hadn't posted an item on the site since July — than the Mail's showbiz correspondent decides to update it.

He tells visitors that Andrew Lloyd Webber has been (deep breath before reading on) "slagging me off in the London Times and on his own website with regard to comments I made in my Daily Mail column about that drivel on TV about finding a Maria to star in his production of The Sound of Music (or Musick)."

The rant continues: "Andrew writes that he intends to cast future shows in the same way. He argues that the show has millions of viewers so he must be doing something right. The fact that the show has done well in the ratings doesn't for one minute mean it's any good."

He signs off sadly: "Such shows debase the theatre, and I'm sorry my old friend has chosen to take the path to mediocrity."

Wadley and Odone in ‘power' spat

MORE information reaches Axegrinder concerning the glorious catfight between Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley and media commentator Cristina Odone.

The two women had a heated row at Sandra Howard's book launch last week. Wadley was said to be "shouting"

about some criticisms made recently in print by Odone, who had dared to suggest that elderly Associated Newspapers executive Bert Hardy had saved Wadley's ailing Evening Standard.

I now learn that during their row, unkind remarks were made about Standard managing director Bert Hardy.

He was described as "silly" and "old".

Hardy has been around long enough to laugh off ludicrous suggestions that he is silly. As far as old is concerned, Hardy's next birthday cake will be ablaze with 78 candles.

Wadley said that "only five people know the power structure at Associated and I am one of them." Presumably she meant that Odone was not one of the other four. If the normally restrained Wadley is behaving in such a manner she must truly be under some pressure from that power structure…

Madame Arcati's blog worth a butcher's

IF you like viciousness, the Madame Arcati blog is worth a butcher's.

I don't yet know the true identity of Madame Arcati, but she describes herself as "the premier showbiz and media clairvoyant who writes about whatever she pleases".

Indeed, so contentious are her comments about Sunday Times deputy editor Nick Hellen that Axegrinder's Anadin-popping lawyer has refused me permission to repeat a single word of them. Sorry about that.

Read your own paper before judging, prof

BY mistake, Axegrinder found himself reading Professor ‘Judge and Jury'

Greenslade's column in the Evening Standard this week. In it, the prof weighed in to the Express for running a full page headlined "Fury at BBC ‘Is this the way to Al Jazeera' spoof." He lamented that it was "another case, I'm afraid, of a manufactured media storm".

Manufactured by whom, though?

Because the day before the Express, the Standard's page 3 read: "Is this the way to Al-Jazeera? BBC news staff face grilling on tasteless spoof video".

Perhaps Roy only reads the Standard on the day his column runs.

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