Dog watched dog 13.02.04

Elworthy eats stamps and leaves

Journalist John Elworthy reckons he writes more than a quarter of a million words every year as chief reporter/news editor of the Cambs Times – so he’s not surprised when, occasionally, some of them return to haunt him.

Writing last December about the threat to four Cambridgeshire sub-post offices he declared that, should any of the four eventually be saved, he “would personally eat a book of second-class stamps and be happily photographed so doing”.

When the Post Office relented and saved a sub-office, the postmistress, Sue Edgoose, reminded him of his words and so, ever happy to prove a journalist’s word is his bond, he did just that – live on air – during his weekly 15-minute spot on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Breakfast Show.

“I stuck each stamp to a cheese biscuit and wolfed them down as quickly as possible,” says John. “I had some Marmite in reserve in case it got too awful but I survived.”

He added: “The postmistress rang me back after reminding me of the challenge to offer a book of 100 stamps – but I stuck, so to speak, with what I had promised.”

Above: presenter Emma McClean watches Elworthy get stuck into his stamp and cracker snack

Dog has particular reason to be horror-struck by this tale of the Daily Mail’s sports hound (and British Press Awards nominee) Charles Sale.

The absent-minded hack took his dog Alfie for their usual stroll down to the newsagent recently to check out how his stories matched up to the competition. Engrossed in Fleet Street’s finest offerings, he wandered home.

Six hours later the phone rang. It was the RSPCA wondering why Alfie, a King Charles spaniel, was still chained up outside the newsagent’s shop. “They gave me a bit of a talking to and a yellow card,” admits a rightly shame-faced Sale. But what about Alfie? Is he still happy to accompany his master on the morning newsagent’s run? “He’s very forgiving,” says Sale.

From the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” file. Emap’s marketers taped copies of new lads’ mag Zoo Weekly to the seats at the Kop end of Leicester City’s Walker Stadium before the Aston Villa game.Presumably with the logic that football fans would be prime candidates to be interested in the mag.

Unfortunately for Emap, it backfired on two counts. As Villa’s third, fourth and fifth goals went in, hundreds of copies of Zoo were thrown on the pitch by fans. Dog is sure this was a comment on their team’s performance rather than the quality of the publication.

Second, the Foxes are something of a family club, and so some sections of the crowd were not quite as appreciative as they might have been of the magazine’s raunchy content.

“We must apologise to supporters for a serious error of judgement,” the club said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we did not fully check the content of the magazine – which we must accept was our fault.”

A spokesman added: “The material contained is clearly not appropriate for a family audience and, as a family-orientated club, we very much regret this oversight.

Keys to a cock-up

Red faces at The Western Mail on Monday over an article about Lance Corporal Thomas Keys, a soldier who died in Iraq, and his parent’s anger at Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon.

Unfortunately, the reporter covering it didn’t get a credit for it. A mix-up with the designer meant the catchline became the byline, and credit for the story went to… Thomas Keys.

Bless me Father for I have sinned

At his farewell bash, The Herald’s revered Scottish political editor, Murray Ritchie, recounted a cracking tale about a copy transmission problem involving his old freelance friend and drinking partner Jack McLean.

McLean had telephoned an obituary to an English paper and dictated that the deceased had been an altar boy in his childhood but had to leave because of “an irreverent heresy”.

McLean lamented later: “Whether my Glasgow accent or the presence of a few wee goldies on my part or the daft Sheffield copytaker lassie was to blame, it appeared in the blatt next day as him leaving the church ‘due to a Reverend Hennessy’. I have always wondered if there was a Father Hennessy out there, stigmatised for life.”

Hot and milky drink is the Horlicks

Ever since Alastair Campbell described that dossier as “complete Horlicks”, the press office at a certain hot drinks company has been on the horns of an intriguing dilemma.

On the one hand it meant that 2003 saw a steep rise in mentions for its product in the national press – from theatre reviews to football match reports.

On the other, some of those mentions were not quite the positive, homely image it wanted to portray. So the office has decided to play a new game, Spot the Horlicks, to remind the Fourth Estate of what Horlicks is (a hot, milky drink) and what it is not (a euphemism for a swear word often used in editorial meetings).

Any journalist using Horlicks as a printable shortcut to “bollocks” will receive a free jar of Horlicks in the post to remind them of what the real thing is all about.

“We appreciate that this may be an attraction for night editors or other journalists looking for a good night’s sleep,” says the press office, “but if you could ‘mind the Horlicks’ we’d be really grateful.”

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