Wednesday, April 05, 2006
"Do you like what you're doing - or is it, you can do nothing else...?"
Jawbox reckons this may be the greatest headline ever: "Al Jazeera to air TV series about multiracial Welsh sheep family".
Though perhaps this one, from the News Of The Screws circa-early-Seventies, is even finer, in several senses: "Nudist welfare man's model wife fell for the Chinese hypnotist from the Co-op bacon factory".
It both makes you intrigued to read the story... and yet sensing that may be, after all, unnecessary...
This was one of the things I've learnt, by the by, from my current reading matter - still Roy Greenslade's history of the British Press post-WWII, somewhat narrowly, misleadingly-titled Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda.
His prose style may not be the raciest, but there are plenty of fascinating tales therein - and revealing (to me, anyway) insights into how Northern Irish affairs were completely ignored by the mainland Press until the mid-to-late 1960s; how Rupert Murdoch stole cannily in to turn the Sun from unloved, newly-born-soon-to-die embarrassment to all-trouncing, Mirror-trumping, multi-million-seller within just nine years; how all papers, including the Mail, Express et al, led the media-skewed charge into the EEC in defiance of sceptical divided public and politicians; and how The Sun labelled Margaret Thatcher "the most unpopular woman in Britain" in the 1970s before later slightly, subtly shifting their stance; or how major national newspapers were regularly, and lengthily, kept from publishing at all by the all-powerful print unions - including almost a whole year out of action for The Times and Sunday Times in 1979-80...
But there are plenty of frivolous passing gems to be enjoyed, too, amid the heavier-than-I've-suggested discussions...
For example, I'd love to have worked under the 1978-launched Daily Star's first editor, Peter Grimsditch, of whom it's said: "In the small hours of Friday nights he encouraged alcohol-fuelled subs to indulge in a variety of childish pranks, such as bizarre races through the office and indoor cricket using a ball composed of rubber bands."
Or how about the major Fleet Street editor who tended to hire reporters on their cricketing skills, above their journalistic talents?
Even more admiration is due, of course, to the venerable second Lord Rothermere (grand-daddy of my current Associated overlord, of course), who indulgently extended much keeping-it-real sympathy when his Daily Mail editor Arthur Brittenden complained of a headache: "Go home, and sit by the pool."
"Thank you, Lord Rothermere. But I don't have a pool."
"No pool? No pool! You don't have a pool?!"
I did also enjoy Roy's considered analysis of the Star's debut front-page:
"The first splash, headlined 'Model's Mystery Plunge', was one of those stories that didn't bear too much inquiry since the girl was not a model, the plunge had been no more than three feet and there was precious little mystery."
Pah! Mere quibbles...
Still, after several weeks' ploughing through, I'm still only as far in as p375 of 674, and only just been introduced to a rather flimsy character called Diana, and the newly-bought anthology of Peter Cook's writings, Tragically I Was An Only Twin, is lookingly balefully tempting at me from the shelf...
But still... It's all good, educative stuff.
You know what they say - if you can't join 'em, read about 'em...
Or something like that.