LORD DRONE’S MIGHTY FLEET STREET ORGAN,
THE WORLD’S GREATEST ONLINE NEWSPAPER
MONDAY 4 MARCH 2024
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Many people would sooner die than think. In fact, they do
— Bertrand Russell
THE ALTERNATIVE MEDIA DAILY
Our proud motto: We may not always be first with the news but we’re always wrong.
BY ROYAL DISAPPOINTMENT
The golden palaces of newspapers
This pic of the Daily Express building in Manchester was posted on Facebook by Pat Wooding.
The photo, probably taken in the 1950s, was spotted by Nick Jenkins who commented: ‘At least the Express building is still there — unlike the fine old Mail building on Deansgate. The DX offices have been converted into flats.
Nick has written a fascinating account of ‘newspaper palaces’ for the British Journalism Review. READ IT HERE
The picture that sums up the state of British politics today
WHAT A LOUSY TRICK
Reach bosses announce jobs drive weeks after sacking hundreds of journalists
REACH boss Jim Mullen added insult to injury yesterday by announcing a recruitment drives weeks after sacking hundreds of journalists.
But don’t all rush. The new jobs are for the graveyard shift, working from 10pm to 6am.
Mullen announced at the beginning of November that 450 jobs at the group, which publishes the Express, Mirror and Star titles plus regional newspapers, would be lost, including around 300 editorial roles.
The following weeks saw a host of experienced staff leaving the business, club football coverage cut back in some towns and cities and 13 websites closed.
Now, in a sign that the digital downturn which affected the industry in 2023 has apparently bottomed-out, the company is back on the lookout for new staff. It goes without saying that the roles will be lower paid.
News of the recruitment drive, which will see the creation of five new roles, came in an email to all staff from chief digital publisher David Higgerson, the HoldtheFrontPage website reported.
The company is creating a new ‘overnights team’ to be responsible for covering breaking and trending stories for the group’s ‘Live’ network of websites.
Higgerson wrote: “As we continue to focus on building our audience, we’re creating a new overnights team to improve our overnight coverage and put us on the front foot as we go into each day.
“We’re kicking off internal recruitment for five new roles (four senior reporters and a content editor), so please apply if you’re interested.
“The team will be responsible for covering breaking and trending stories overnight for our websites, going wherever on the network the audience opportunity is greatest at that time. They’ll work closely with colleagues in New York to ensure we’re getting the most out of audience opportunities overnight.
“Shifts will be 10pm-6am and be remotely based across the UK/Ireland – see the job descriptions for more details.”
By George, it’s our George starring as, er, Boy George (pity about the moustache)
By GEORGE DEARSLEY
It’s April 1984 and I’m squashed with several other Fleet Street journos in a doorway yards from the Libyan Embassy in St. James Square, where a day earlier WPC Yvonne Fletcher was fatally wounded by an unknown gunman.
The adrenaline is pumping. Could we also be shot? We’ve just had a row with television’s bouffant newsman Michael Cole who tried to push in and was roundly told to Foxtrot Oscar and find his own doorstep.
Suddenly a colleague hands me a message from the Daily Star newsdesk ordering me to go to another location. I’m excited. Have we been given some secret information about the Met Officer’s murder? It could be a front page story.
I’m whisked away in a black cab to the address … which turns out to be a top beautician’s salon. Apparently Boy George has just launched a new make-up range and because we share the same name I’m to be made up like the androgynous singer.
I was fuming to miss out on the world’s top news story. When the woman wanted to shave off my moustache I adamantly refused. The stunt made nearly a full page.
And two years later when I left the paper my colleagues framed it as a leaving gift. Looking back, maybe I should have been Karma (Chameleon) and lost the tache.
Just Fancy That
Expressman Nick hurt in bike crash
Former Express features sub Nick Hill is recovering after falling off his bike at the age of 80. He sustained 10 broken ribs after a van pulled out in front of him throwing him on to the road. He is now back home after five days in hospital.
When cricket junkie Tim Rice (79 going on 105 not out) moved into Hambleden village on the Oxford/Bucks border the removals man asked him why he had chosen Hambleden. ‘Because it was the birthplace of the great game,’ came the reply. ‘No mate, that’s Hambledon with an O in Hampshire, this is Hambleden with an E.’ NMPKT including, obvs, Sir Tim.
In the late ‘60s Michael Caine, ace snapper Terry O’Neil and tailor to the stars Dougie Hayward met regularly for breakfast in a Jewish bagel bar just off Berkeley Square. They were in there eating scrambled eggs one morning when a visiting German bemoaned the fact that bagels could not be found in his native Munich. ‘Well who do think is to blame for that?’ said Hayward, not best known for his diplomacy.
ONLY IN THE DRONE
Our top columnists
The rebirth of George Galloway raises the question: how does someone so detested persuade people to vote for him? Mind you, the new MP has also been puzzled. He once asked the late Labour Scottish Secretary and First Minister Donald Dewar why people took an instant dislike to him. ‘It saves time, George,’ came the reply.
SportsDigest with Rockard Rambleshanks
Women account for 55% of fans of professional sport in South Korea. In US it’s less than half and 25% in UK and Oz.
Man U, keen to lure £60 million Bayern Munich star Mathias de Ligt, could have signed him for peanuts in 2018. Rejected because scouts said his father was ‘too fat’ and he was likely to go the same way.
Cristiano Ronaldo banned for one match for making Ted Hodgson-approved single-handed gesture to jeering Saudi league fans.
Former West Ham striker Gianluca Scamacca’s dismal form at new club Atalanta blamed on debilitating PlayStation addiction which leaves him running around ‘in a foreign body’ and ‘rolling into other worlds’.
RuralRides. The bar fire is playing up at The Bustard. No draw, no roar, fitful flames. Stacy, the barmaid, posits green wood or a blocked flu as reasons. Her bellows are punctured and past it. She’s tried lying on the floor and blowing into the grate: the ‘fire’ flickers briefly and then dies. A bit like life I suppose.
So farewell then, footie maverick Stan Bowles, gone to the Great Locker Room in the Sky. Tales of the mayhem he caused are legendary, writes SportsGoss corr Rockard Rambleshanks. Paid £200 a game to wear Gola boots, he was offered £250 to switch to adidas. What to do? Simps. Wear one Gola boot and one adidas — and pocket both fees. Stan liked a flutter: he would often spend days wagering on games of snakes and ladders. Even when he joined Gamblers Anonymous he struck a bet with a stranger on how long he would last.
WankerOfTheWeek. Matt Hancock who opened a talk at Eton with a joke about Jacob Rees-Mogg. Later, when he took questions, a thin, bespectacled boy called Peter informed the audience that ‘my father is a great man both in public and in private’. To great applause he added: ‘especially as he remained loyal to his wife.’
The Palace isn’t handling the ongoing mystery of the Princess of Wales’s health at all well. But ‘twas ever thus. A.N. Wilson says in the Mail that news of George V’s death was delayed until it was too late to appear in the Standard, a paper considered too lowly to break such a story. Much better to be announced first in The Times, which it was.
HeadsUp. Stuff subbed enviably short
Show-offs in tank tops and jorts compete in Florida Man Games. Includes wrestling while holding pitchers of beer and running from ‘police’ on Evading Arrest obstacle course.
Ride-sharing company offers ‘restroom enthusiasts’ four-hour tour of Tokyo’s public loos.
NASA seeks four volunteers to spend time in 1,700 sq ft Mars pod simulating life in space. Don’t rush: it’s for a year.
StatsLife. The amount of wealth you need to be in a country’s richest 1% is listed by Bloomberg. In Britain, it’s $3.1 million — ahead of China ($1.1m), Japan ($2m) and Italy ($2.2m) but trailing France ($3.3m), Germany ($3.4m) and the US ($5.8m). Top spot? Monaco ($12.9m).
Alpha males? Sooo yesterday. Now it’s soft, gooey masculinity, says Bustle. Saltburn’s Jacob Elordi may be a 6ft 5ins hunk but he likes to carry purses and paperbacks. Then there’s Paul Mescal and Swifty’s squeeze, Super Bowl star Travis Kelce. They’re the opposite of toxic masculinity: known for their fondness for emotional music, ‘little hobbies’ such as latte art and board games and willingness to talk about their feelings and … (Nuff pansy talk — Ed)
Sour grapes for Pilger
Better known for his investigative journalism, film-making and campaigning, obituaries to John Pilger didn't make much of his talents as a winemaker – and with good reason, reports Popbitch.
Many years ago, John invited a bunch of friends out to his house in Italy. They were sitting on the patio, opening a bottle, when Pilger announced "That's my vineyard at the end of this garden. The wine you are drinking comes from there."
"Hmmm," said one of his cattier friends, taking a sip. "Doesn't travel well, does it?"
ALEX COLLINSON writes: I’m reminded of a magic moment on Mirror features back in the days of glue pots, scissors and copy paper. A sub took to making wine at home and tried to flog bottles of the hideous brew to colleagues, which prompted one wag to post a comment on the features noticeboard: What’s the difference between Kev’s Valpolicella and a bucket of camel urine? Answer: the bucket.
PETER MICHEL adds: There was a lovely follow-up to that magic moment at the Mirror. The following day someone pinned up a picture of Henry VIII with him saying: "I was having trouble dissolving the monasteries until I discovered Kev’s Valpolicella.”
NOSEBAGS AT NOON
Well, it was one o’clock actually but we never let the facts get in the way of a lousy headline. Anyway, to get to the matter in hand, four former Express old stagers met for lunch in London’s Chinatown yesterday.
Pictured, from left, are Jon Zackon, Kath Whitbourn, John Ingham and Alastair McIntyre, who was wearing a woolly jumper especially designed to hide the gravy stains.
(BONFIRE OF THE SUBS)
Spotted by Rae Lewis in the Telegraph. Note the excellent juxtaposition of ‘thrown’ and ‘up’.
HOW TO HACK A CELEB’S PHONE
Flashback from Popbitch, 13 March, 2002
Which newspaper showbiz desk has a trick for getting stories out of celebs' mobile phones? (Two hacks simultaneously call a celeb's mobile. One gets the answerphone, and types in 9, followed by 3333. If the hapless celeb hasn't changed the default access code, the hack gets their messages, and can even delete them afterwards to cover their tracks).
News in Brief
Google is rebranding generative AI chat tool Bard after its AI model Gemini because "Gemini is evolving to be more than just the models. It supports an entire ecosystem — from the products... to the APIs and platforms helping developers and businesses innovate". (Google)
X and Threads rival Bluesky received 800,000 sign ups in its first day open to the public, increasing its user base by about a quarter. It remains some way behind its competitors for active users, however. You can find us on Bluesky here. (Techcrunch)
The Telegraph has joined podcast network Acast, so all the UK's major news publishers are there (including BBC, News UK, Guardian, New Statesman, FT, Tortoise and The Economist). The Telegraph said it is "putting significant investment into our podcast production capabilities for 2024 and beyond".
Ofcom has declined to investigate complaints about GB News presenter Neil Oliver sharing a Covid vaccine-linked "turbo cancer" conspiracy theory. The regulator said the "brief comments" were his personal view and "did not materially mislead". (The Times)
British journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown, who edits the Sarawak Report website, has been sentenced to two years in jail in absentia for criminal defamation in Malaysia. She says it is political and plans to appeal against her conviction and sentence. (Free Malaysia Today)
Eight reporters who say they were attacked by police while covering the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis in 2020 have received a $950,000 settlement from the city's government. (Newsguild)
Former GB News host Mark Steyn has been ordered to pay $1m to a climate scientist for defamation with another blogger ordered to pay $1,000. The US judge dismissed claims against their publishers, the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. (Financial Times)
The Bedford Independent has added a "good news only" filter to website in response to comments about local news being negative. "We know, as far as our reporting is concerned, that is simply not true." 32% of content on the site is now tagged as good news. (Bedford Independent)
The Times issued a correction after a column claimed a Government-commissioned report on the Teesworks development "contradicted several linchpin claims made in Private Eye". (The Times)
Source: Press Gazette
Frank’s thriller for charity
Frank Malley, deputy sports editor of the Daily Express in the 1990s, is hoping his latest venture will help raise cash for charity this Christmas.
Malley turned to writing thriller novels after leaving journalism and his most recent crime series has been turned into a box set under the title Code Breaker.
"It's a three-book series, incorporating The 13th Assassin, The Hit List and The Killing Circle, the latter having been released in October," said Frank. "They all surround the life of the main character, a reluctant spook called Emily Stearn, and her traumatic adventures in the secret intelligence service. The action sweeps from Moscow to Paris to London. They are fast-paced standalone stories but best read in order."
Royalties from the omnibus, as with the standalone novels, go to the Primrose Cancer charity based at Bedford Hospital.
The Kindle version of Code Breaker, published by Sharpe Books, is available from Amazon at a bargain £4.99.
Perfectly good advert ruined by a wrongly placed comma and a stray apostrophe
Yesterday’s men have lunch
Five elderly hacks from the old Daily Express met for a glass of lunch at Boulevard Brasserie in London’s Covent garden. There were a few senior moments: One member lost both his train tickets and had to buy two more, one nearly lost his wallet, another was off the booze on doctor’s orders and one will be 80 in a few weeks.
Many old anecdotes were exchanged for the umpteenth time and it was agreed that in future all jokes will be given a number. This will save time as one member just has to shout out, say 34, and we’ll all fall about laughing
Attending the February meeting of the World’s Greatest Lunch Club are, from left, Alastair McIntyre, Alan Frame, Chris Williams (on a wayzgoose from Glasgow), Roger Watkins and Dick Dismore.
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY
The year is 1986 and the three subs in the centre are celebrating their handsome voluntary redundancy pay-offs at the Daily Express Fleet Street offices in London. Several are no longer with us and are marked with a asterisk *
Pictured from left: Peter Caney*, Alastair McIntyre, redundo trio John ‘Bertie’ Brookes*, Dan McDonald*, and Denis Brierley; Geoff Compton, Les Diver*, and Roger Watkins. Terry Ryle is behind Dennis Brierley who has disappeared without trace but is hopefully still with us
Bet you can’t hack this phone, Piers
STEVE MILL writes: Mlud, regarding your item on hacking celebs' mobiles, I attach a photo of an American Systems Mark 900 Briefcase Phone from the 1960s.
The purchaser of this box of tricks was a long time resident of Memphis Tennessee and owned a large property on Elvis Presley Boulevard. The former truck driver turned entertainer even wrote out some easy to follow instructions, see below. It was a much simpler time.
Message reads: Use channel YS or JL. Ask for mobile operator then give her your number which is YJ79896, then the number you are trying to reach
MAXWELL: Banana skins? Coffin wedged in a plane’s hold? Sorry, this
is the REAL truth about Captain Bob
Larger than life, and in death
Why we weren’t ready for Eddy
Only here for the Behan
Irish writer Brendan Behan was once invited to Oxford to take part in a debate about the difference between prose and poetry.
His opponent spoke for almost two hours. Behan rose to his feet and promised to be brief. He recited an old Dublin rhyme.
There was a young fella named Rollocks
Who worked for Ferrier Pollocks.
As he walked on the strand
With a girl by the hand
The water came up to his ankles.
"That," declared Behan, "is prose. But if the tide had been in it would have been poetry."
The Daily Express Poem
You’ll Never See a Nipple in the Daily Express
By JOHN COOPER CLARKE, 1976
Surprise! Reach titles sink further after mass sackings
January was a bad month for Reach titles, according to ABC figures.
No surprise there, since they have sacked so many people. Today’s bosses, with the exception of Rupert Murdoch, do not understand that good journalism sells.
The Daily Star Sunday, Daily Star, Sunday Mail, Daily Record and Sunday Express all saw their circulations fall by 15 to 17% year-on-year.
The only paid-for newspaper to stay steady year-on-year was the Financial Times, on 115,118. Its newsstand sales were down 14% but subscriptions were up 3%.Month-on-month, the Daily Star Sunday saw the biggest decline of 8% to 73,103.
Digital did better. the Daily Mail’s digital edition had an average circulation of 87,571 in January, up 1% month-on-month and 2% year-on-year. The Mail on Sunday’s digital edition rose 2% month-on-month and 1% year-on-year to 89,326.
WE’RE ALL DOOMED!
(According to the Telegraph)
Four headlines from the Telegraph’s comment pages in recent weeks.
Britain has become a lawless country where good people have to live in fear
Western civilisation is being destroyed from within by forces we can’t control
I have glimpsed the terrifying future of lazy, defenceless, near-bankrupt Britain.”
For the first time in my life, I’m now beginning to think Britain is finished.
Drunken day that Oliver Reed threatened to kill me
News reporters do sometimes get themselves into terrible scrapes, it’s a hazard of the job. BARRY GARDNER knew he was taking a risk when he visited hell-raising actor Oliver Reed. At first everything went well but after more drink was taken the mood changed — and Reed pulled a gun on Barry.
The Daily Drone is published, financed and edited by Alastair ‘Bingo’ McIntyre with contributions from the veteran journalists of old Fleet Street, London’s boulevard of broken dreams. Dedicated to scribblers everywhere.
©Lord Drone, Whom God Preserve 2005-2024