Axegrinder: 26 January 2007

Everyone's an editor at the Sunday Express

The Sunday Express may be short on cash and staff, but editor Martin Townsend is certainly big on dishing out titles.

Judging by last Sunday’s paper (21 January), almost every hack on Richard Desmond’s title is not just a mere hack, but an “editor”.

A swift glance at the bylines reveals the following: Stuart Winter — foreign editor and environment editor; David Stephenson, television editor; Lucy Johnston, health editor; Camilla Tominey, royal editor; Hilary Douglas, education editor; Chris Goodman, music editor, and Kirsty Buchanan, deputy political editor.

In fact, apart from columnists and freelances, it appears that just two staff have bylines that fail to include the word editor in their titles.

Political correspondent Jason Groves and film critic Henry Fitzherbert have yet to reach the giddy heights of their colleagues.

Surely, it cannot be too long now before Townsend makes his entire staff an editors’ club?

Sky fans ask what’s behind Lorna’s exit

The departure of Lorna Dunkley from Sky News’s Sunrise show — which she co-hosted with Eamonn Holmes — has left her fan club of viewers deeply miffed.

They have been venting their anger in TV addicts’ chat rooms (yes, they do exist) to discuss such shows.

One regular contributor posts the following which includes an unfair reference to Eamonn’s waistline: “Lorna is much better than Eamonn, she proved this during the Suffolk Murders. Eamonn takes up a whole screen, programme, time, life.” The viewer urges fellow fans to start a “Bring Back Lorna Campaign” — even though Eamonn’s new co-host, former ITV Meridian presenter Charlotte Hawkins, started alongside him earlier this month. Sky explains on its website that Dunkley is heading off to Sky News Weekend to “strengthen further” the weekend presenting line-up.

Insiders at Sky believe there might be slightly more to the shake-up than that rather bland explanation.

Exclusive: Jade Goody to edit Sunday Times

Former New Statesman editor Peter Wilby has been witheringly cruel about his former colleagues at The Sunday Times.

“When I worked there more than 20 years ago, I seriously doubted the sanity of several leading executives,” writes Wilby in a piece for The Guardian.

And he was no kinder about the skills it takes to edit the paper now.

“So established and so successful is the brand that one sometimes feels it could be edited by Jade Goody without significant damage.” In fact, the paper has been edited for 12 long years by John Witherow. Surely, the mischievous Wilby isn’t suggesting that Rupert Murdoch might be about to make some changes at Wapping?

And if anyone knows the identity of Wilby’s former “lunatic” colleagues, please let Axegrinder know.

Addis socks it to London

Richard Addis should have no problems recruiting enthusiastic staff keen to work on his latest exciting project.

The former Express editor is going to launch a freesheet in London in March — just in case the existing four or five aren’t enough. Let’s hope his former colleagues at the Express don’t remind Addis of the time he said getting rid of staff at the paper was “like clearing out an old sock drawer”.

The bedroom antics of lobby press pack

There’s much speculation at Westminster over the identity of a certain Guardian columnist who goes under the pseudonym of “Bill Blanko”.

Lobby hacks were unimpressed by the revelations of Blanko who disclosed the less than lavish sleeping arrangements for the parliamentary journalists following Gordon Brown on his trip to India earlier this month.

The following Blanko gossip particularly troubled the notoriously prickly souls in the Press Gallery: “I’m told the accommodation in Bangalore was not unlike the Big Brother house — not enough hotel rooms to go round, apparently, which meant, in some cases, three to a room.

“According to unconfirmed reports reaching the Press Bar on Wednesday evening, one room was shared by James Blitz of the FT and Larry Elliott of The Guardian (sharing the bed, I’m told — hope it was a double) with Ben Brogan of the Mail sleeping on the floor.” Among those suspected of being the real Bill Blanko were The Guardian’s ex-political editor Michael White who strongly denied the scurrilous suggestion.

Axegrinder understands the column is a “collegiate effort”. How very Guardian.

No Blackberry needed for pub quiz victors

It takes more than 90 mile per hour gales, icy winds and train station closures to keep sports hacks away from a good pub quiz.

This is what more than 60 media contestants had to endure to get to the first annual Carlsberg FA Cup Pub Quiz at the Living Room bar in central London, won by a sharp-witted Sunday Mirror team (pictured below).

The £1,500 prize money may just have had something to do with their Herculean efforts to get there on time.

But controversy was never far away — a Blackberry hand-held phone was spotted on the table of a certain Sunday newspaper but a Carlsberg spokesman could not confirm whether it was used for quiz purposes.

Though a success, the event failed to create harmony between rival newspaper gangs — the Mirror team was greeted by a “cacophony of light-hearted boos” while collecting their trophy and winners’ cheque.

It’s the taking part that counts, gentlemen.

Big Brother makes Nelson’s column shrink

Spare a thought for the News of the World’s youthful political columnist Fraser Nelson.

His latest “Nelson’s column” — normally a full page from “your insider in the corridors of power” — was relegated due to paper’s plethora of Big Brother stories.

Poor Nelson’s monochrome musings were squeezed into half of a left-hand page which he was forced to share with a garish ad for a carpet sale.

Official: Sunday Sport home to 1,001 tits

Things aren’t what they used to be at the Sunday Sport, where its tried and tested formula of blurring the line between being a newspaper and a porno mag doesn’t seem to quite do the trick sales-wise any more.

In December, the Sport’s ABCs were looking rather limp, down 26 per cent year on year to 102,798.

So in a bid to boost the paper’s profile, editor Paul Carter has employed the services of aptly-named PR agency Brazen.

In case anyone was worrying that the paper might be heading upmarket, circulation-boosting stunts for 2007 include the Miss Upskirt 2007 contest and a world record attempt to include the most nipples (1,001 in case you were wondering) in one newspaper at one time.

They have also boosted the team by employing “Phil the Dynamo Dwarf” who they cryptically say is “a photographer with an unusual niche expertise”.

Rivals follow story… into the ladies’

I’ve been told that the News of the World journalists who bagged a first interview with Celebrity Big Brother hate figure Jade Goody found themselves being trailed around a hotel by reporters from a rival news organisation this week.

According to my source: “Their stalking efforts were nothing short of hilarious. Attempts at evesdropping on the NoW’s conversations included positioning themselves directly with the opposition, indiscreetly following their every move and on one occasion, involved a trip to the ladies’ loos — until a call to security promptly removed the male individual.”

NoW was ready and waiting for LA Becks

Last week, Axegrinder mistakenly suggested that the News of the World was part of a Fleet Street scramble to send staffers to LA to cover the continuing adventures of the Beckhams.

It’s been pointed out to me that the NoW has had staffers based in LA for 13 years — and that the current US reporter is, of course, Georgina Dickinson.

The only way to stop a repeat of this regrettable error is, I fear, for PG to send me out to LA forthwith.

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