Thursday, 6 January 2011

I'm a bit Margo Leadbetter (again*)

Margo Leadbetter: "I would just like to say, Tom and Barbara, that this is the last time you involve me with the Gutter Press. Good morning." (Mr Fix-it, 1975)

I have become involved with the Gutter Press. Much like Margo and very much against my will.

The Good Life: Barbara, Tom, the divine Margo and Jerry.
It's my husband's fault, sitting there in the Tom Good jumper he got for Christmas. He bought the puppy, so there's newspaper everywhere for potty training purposes.

And it's The Sun, The People and The Mirror.

The puppy did its business. Smiling provocatively up at his little furry bottom from Page 3 of The Sun was Nicola, 27, from Basingstoke, who was concerned about the government's policy of Afghanistan despite the fact that she was wearing just her underpants and was plainly cold.

I came over all Margo.

"Why can't we have something decent, like The Telegraph," I shrilled at Brian, while daintily wrapping perky Nicola around a pile of little turds.

"Because I get this free from work," Tom, I mean, Brian, said. (That jumper has gone to his head.)

Where have you put all the newspaper? I need to pee!
I had to laugh though. The puppy (and the Gutter Press) arrived on Christmas Eve and sometime over the festive period we watched the Christmas episode of The Good Life where Margo refuses to wear the paper hat Tom and Barbara made because it's The Mirror. We had a bit of a giggle at that because I'd already been moaning about the Red Tops on the kitchen floor.

I confess. I'm a newspaper snob. I prefer the what used to be Broadsheets (and are now Berlin size). I like my papers free of Nicola and her perky attributes. I also like my papers free of Jordan and her sexy romps with whichever husband it is at the moment. I also like my papers free of all the ins and outs of the soaps I don't watch and the soap stars who aren't celebs to me because I've never heard of them.

I don't trust them - particularly The Sun - and I have good reason for this. I once wrote a story about Mick Jagger who came on holiday with his son (who was then eight) and his Dad. The three of them stayed in local hotels, walked the Coast Path and went to Oakwood. It was then the paper's policy of not bothering celebs who holiday here (so as not to put them off coming) and despite varied phone calls from the public we ignored our rock star until he'd gone home.

Only then did I phone the hotels (complete co-operation from the first, a 'we don't give out guests' details from the second) and I wrote the story in retrospect about their exemplary behaviour, how polite, how lovely and how charming they had all been. I even interviewed the chef of the first hotel about what he had given them to eat. He remarked that the only incident during their stay had been when Jagger junior accidentally dropped his bowl of cereal at breakfast.

I wrote the story accordingly. Then The Sun pinched it. By the time they had finished it Mick Jagger's son had 'inherited his rock star father's wild ways'. He had, gloated The Sun, thrown a rock star style tantrum at breakfast and had chucked his cereal about. The entire story was twisted into 'Sun speak' and bore little relation to what actually happened. I know The Sun didn't speak to anyone at the hotel; the staff had all been threatened with the sack if they spoke to the press again. I was the only journalist they talked to.

I'm still furious. In fact I've decided that using the Red Tops as a venue for my new puppy's toilet habits is the best use of them. After all, they're full of crap anyway.

* I say 'again' in the title of this blog because at school they tried teasing me by calling me Margo (for some reason). I was far too flattered (I've always adored Margo) so, disappointingly they gave up. Perhaps if they had persisted I'd be known as Preseli Margo now rather than Preseli Mags. Is it too late to change?


  1. I tend to agree that you are making the best (and only acceptable) use of the red tops in your home.

    I know others who've had bad experiences with their stories or words being twisted and I boggle at people knowing this happens but still believing what they say. It's scary.

    Pup is very, very cute, btw, Margo. ;-)

  2. That was funny; but I tend to think the quality papers are little better. Last week I read an article about a taxonomy research project at Kew - complete tosh, said my cousin, who has worked on the project for 18 months! The same happens time and agin; I have NEVER read an accurate article about something I truly knew about. And that I think, is no through the malice of journalists - it is something to do with process of writing a 'story', editorialising, seeking an angle, failing to research, the pressure of deadlines...

    Nick Davies book, Flat Earth News is a brilliant and brave expose of modern news media.

  3. That young dog is such a cutie, and probably will not be bothered at all about which newspaper is daily company.

    I love how the puppy experience gets into another highway, re journalism, then, now, perhaps to eternity.

    Never having worked in The Media, but knowing some who have, it really is pretty awful how thievery takes place, and how integrity leaves town.

    Wikileaks. What do you think of this? That was my own swerve from the papers under that gorgeous puppy.


  4. Preseli Margo? Why not? Who better than you?!

    At least your puppy has the proper appreciation for newspapers. You're training him young; good for you!
    Bear kinda feels the same way, except they pay him, so we can't trash the papers entirely.

  5. Preseli Margo! Love it! And your use of the red tops. Gosh, no wonder you were furious at the way that story was twisted. PS Will be keeping a beady eye out for rockers on the coast path now!

  6. I remember someone seeing an article of mine once, which had a photo byline. I puffed up with pride, until they said: 'It was under my fishcake.'
    I prefer what you did with Page 3 of The Sun.
    I have no time for the nationals, even the sniffy broadsheets, whose focus at weekends is very London-biased. But hoorah for local papers - good ones are part of the lifeblood of our communities.

  7. That made me giggle, I hate the 'red tops' too, awful how they stole your piece of journalism and misconstrued it. Love the puppy and the red tops are fine for puppy poo x

  8. Hilarious! You will forever be Margo in my mind.....

    What really gets to me is the way the truth is selectively reported, biased, and often grossly distorted in our newspapers, but if anyone complains or demands some privacy, they go all pious about freedom of the press.

  9. Such a sweetie though Mags. Very funny piece of writing too x


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