The Grey Cardigan

DURING ONE of my mercifully few stints on the Evening Beast newsdesk, I regularly copped for Sunday duty and so had to collect all the day's papers from my delightfully twee village shop.

I was standing there one Sunday morning as the shopkeeper assembled the tottering pile, at the head of a queue that included the vicar, the chairwoman of the local WI and the Master of Foxhounds.

I nodded politely and was just apologising for the delay when the shopkeeper bellowed towards his wife in the stock room "Mildred!

Has Mr Cardigan's Sunday Sport arrived yet?"

I was reminded of this embarrassment when leafing through last weekend's Mail on Sunday. For a supposedly mid-market "compact" there was an extraordinary amount of down-market piffle polluting its pages. I wonder what the marketing department made of the decision to buy up Wayne Rooney's "autobiography"?

Are the inevitably mundane mutterings of a Spud-Faced Nipper (copyright Ian Hislop) the right stuff for the target market?

Then there was the Love Island story on page three, the Prince Harry kiss-and-tell on six, seven and eight, and the Tweedy/Cole footballer's wedding on 12 and 13.

I had to flick back and check I hadn't picked up The People by mistake. Given that the Mail group regularly criticises the BBC for dumbing down, stones and glass houses spring to mind.

REMEMBER THAT "Bonkers Bruno" headline? Well The Sun continues to show compassion and understanding for those afflicted by mental instability with a stunningly unfunny feature titled "OCD FC", a football team made up of players with behaviour disorders.

Inspired, if that's the right word, by the Spud-Faced Nipper's admission in the aforementioned book that he can't sleep without the sound of a Hoover or hairdryer in the background, a hack called Martin Phillips selects a line-up that includes Tony Adams (alcoholism), George Best (dead through alcoholism), Stan Collymore (depression) and Paul Gascoigne (attention deficit, plus anything else you can think of).

And just in case that's not sufficiently side-splitting, there are numbers for a 25p-a-minute hairdryer or vacuum phone line.

Pathetic. Quite pathetic.

I ALWAYS love it when our ethical betters get caught with their metaphorical fingers in the establishment till. Step forward Mr Paul Harris of The Observer, outed by Press Gazette as one of 74 journalists who have requested a campaign medal for being embedded with British forces in Iraq.

Lest we think that Mr Harris is the kind of man who dresses up in combat gear and reads old copies of Commando magazine in his spare time, he is quick to set the record straight, claiming that he only accepted the medal "on a satirical basis".

"It violates any idea of journalistic ethics about remaining unbiased and only being an observer even within the embedded system," he says. "I accepted it on a basis of a cock-up rather than a conspiracy by the MoD."

You know, I don't think I've read such utter tosh since the last extract from the Spud-Faced Nipper's autobiography.

IN THE Daily Telegraph, Alice Thomson pontificates from her pulpit on the evils of gambling, warning that the number of addicts will double to 700,000 when the Government's planned new casinos come into operation. (I suspect she may have been consulting Keith Waterhouse's inspirational Department of Guesswork.)

But wait, what's this? The opposite page carries a lavish ad feature inviting readers to take their place at the World Series of Poker contest with internet poker site and its commercial partner… The Daily Telegraph. Now what were the odds of that happening?

I WOULDN'T want you to miss former Sentinel editor Sean Dooley's reaction to being named in the Regional Newspaper Hall of Fame, buried away in the back of last week's Press Gazette.

"It all depends on the company you're in," he said, glancing at the line-up of portraits on the wall. "Once I found out that Bob Satchwell was up there and Lord Rothermere wasn't, I was very pleased."

A hit, methinks, a very palpable hit.

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