The Grey Cardigan 31.03.06

THE BOY Wonder, our adolescent editor, hops from foot to foot like an incontinent Labrador. He is clearly uncomfortable, perched precariously on a desk in the newsroom. His deputy, The Brute, glares in the background, radar attuned for signs of dissent from the gathered throng.

Apparently it’s good news, although the body language speaks with forked tongue. The current programme of "rationalisation" is complete and there will be no more job losses — for now. Those department heads who’ve seen a third of their staffs disappear eye each other warily.

And there’s more. Recognising the burden "this very necessary streamlining" has placed on the Evening Beast newsroom, the company has decided to make life easier for us all. They’re killing our three live editions and we’re going to print overnight.

It would be hard to think of a more effective way to emasculate an evening newspaper. Because without the flexibility of geographic coverage (which ensures relevance) and the ability to publish up-todate stories (which ensures topicality) we become the eunuch of local news, at the mercy of print predators and, God forbid, even the turgid local radio and television bulletins.

The black cloud that had momentarily lifted descends once more.

The Boy Wonder slopes off, his weasel words delivered. The oldtimers know the score. This was the day the music died; the day the Evening Beast ceased to be a proper newspaper.

IF OUR demise is being accelerated by corporate greed, what of the BBC, where lashings of public money and the absence of rapacious shareholders should ensure a more comfortable life?

No joy either, with 3,700 jobs going in a bid to make the corporation look more efficient as it sets its sights on a £180 licence fee.

Now I hold no great brief for the Beeb’s previously cosseted workforce.

Most of the journos and presenters I’ve ever met have been so far up themselves that they were coming down the other side.

Pretentious, patronising and pampered springs to mind.

Yet the drivel that trickles forth from some of their local radio stations takes you back to the days of post-war sweet rationing while their regional television programming looks like it should be preceded by Muffin the Mule and followed by The Billy Cotton Band Show.

But one does feel a twinge of sympathy for the departing masses when one reads that someone, somewhere, has decided to spend £4m on modern art for the corporation’s London buildings. Nearly £900,000 of that is going on a 33ft cone of light through which a laser will be beamed 3,000ft into the sky to commemorate news crew members who have died on assignment.

I can’t help but think that the dearly departed would probably prefer that the money had gone into programming and staffing levels, rather than on this pointless posturing. (And we’ll not even mention the £23,000 Radio 2 Christmas party.)

I’M AFRAID the story about parents buying Blue Peter badges on eBay so that their kids can get free admission to Legoland goes straight into the bottom drawer alongside the British Rail flying saucer, the umpteenth school that has banned ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ and the latest smudged pictures of a "big cat"

sighting. Utter tosh, but handy on a slow day.

NEVER AFRAID to change, I have decided that this column needs to keep up with modern trends. Therefore, from next week, my dog will write the final few paragraphs of this diatribe.

Well, if Roy Hattersley can trade on Buster’s misfortunes and Blunkett can get £75,000 a year for Sadie’s witterings in the News of the World, the thoughts of Dacre the deerhound ought to be worth a few bob to this august journal.

You can contact me, should you be minded, at thegreycardigan@gmail.com

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