MY PORTFOLIO of PR clients grows by the day. Indeed, I seem to be the gentleman caller of choice for bored housewives with rich husbands who’ve launched kitchen table ‘businesses’. Mumpreneurs, they call themselves, with vomit-inducing pretentiousness.
After the Cupcake Woman and the Party Bag Lady, I am now also looking after the publicity needs of a woman who threads beads onto a piece of leather and calls it ‘artisan’ jewellery and another whose scheme of applying bejewelled names and glitter to mobile phone cases and iPad cases isn’t exactly going to trouble the Dragons’ Den selectors. (What is it with these women and glitter? They seem to think that a spot of glue and a quick sprinkle justifies adding a tenner to the price of anything.)
Still, as long as hubby keeps paying the invoices, and as long as I can manage to sneak them into the local weekly, no-one seems very concerned. I must say that the Sunday sports subbing shift (sorry, content curation) on the weekly has paid off in this area. While I’m in there and on the system, it’s a doddle to stick some advantageous and anonymous stories in the newsdesk basket. The poor buggers are so over-worked and under-staffed that they’ll bung anything up online and into the paper as long as it resembles English and has a picture with it.
Ah, yes, pictures. I didn’t think I’d be able to get away with charging my clients for using a mobile phone, so I’ve recruited another old colleague, Tommy Cockles. (That’s actually his real name, and was long before Simon Day’s Fast Show creation.) Tommy still wears a trilby, has a spiv’s moustache and is the biggest chancer I’ve ever come across. When we were colleagues on the Evening Beast he used to supplement his salary by running amateur photography ‘classes’ for middle-aged men with anoraks and squints in his studio at home, featuring his significantly younger Filipino wife in various states of undress. He was the newsroom legend who successfully claimed ‘reverse mileage’ on his expenses, “You know, for when you drive past the address and have to back up”.
My favourite Tommy Cockles story concerned the morning after a blizzard had brought the entire region to a slippery halt. I made it into the office (I had to – I was chief sub) but few others had made the effort. I was wondering what on earth I was going to fill our first edition with when Tommy appeared, brushing snow from his hat. “Eh up, Grey,” he said. “It’s a winter wonderland out there. Snowmen, kids sledging, the works. Took me an hour and a half to do five bloody miles.”
“Brilliant,” I said. “Let’s have some snow pictures then. I’ve got to get these pages away.”
“Righty-o,” said Tommy. “I’ll just have a quick brew and I’ll go out and get some.”
Even I, for once, was speechless.
I WAS ejected from the NUJ many, many years ago for asking difficult questions in chapel meetings, and I can’t say that I regret the snub. Since then, and we’re talking three decades here, I can’t remember the union making a single successful contribution to the well-being of its members in my workplace. In fact, it was a complete embarrassment for some time, sending messages of sympathy to the late, unlamented Colonel Gaddafi after the Yanks had bombed him and trying to get South African oranges banned from the staff canteen.
Even now, the apparatchiks are so consumed with their hatred of Rupert Murdoch’s empire and the Daily Mail operation that they betrayed their members by failing to defend them at the Leveson Inquiry while meekly accepting state control of the press.
So we must ask, what are they actually for? Calling for pointless industrial action is one thing. I’m afraid that boat has long since sailed. Once the means of production became available to everyone, the withdrawal of labour achieved absolutely zilch. The papers still come out and the bosses save a day’s wages from the poor mugs on the picket line. So quite why the NUJ is leading industrial action at the Independent, where regrettably 27 compulsory redundancies are planned, I don’t know.
As I mentioned last week, parts of that group are in great shape, namely the London Evening Standard. The launch of the ‘i’ was a great success and the paper is a possible template for newspapers of the future. A London television channel is imminent. The owner, Evgeny Lebedev, seems to be doing a decent job. But the Independent lost £17.5 million in the past 12 months on top of £27.4 million the previous year. Obviously that cannot be sustained.
Let the NUJ have its little protest by all means, but even the most blinkered Trot must realise that it’s utterly futile and a complete waste of time.
The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan