Friday, March 07, 2008
How the spike works
A spike, yesterday
1) Write article for one edition of the magazine, with which editor pronounces self so pleased he will save it for the following edition where there will be enough space for it to run at full length and prominence.
2) Wait two (2) weeks.
3) Watch editor spike piece because on re-reading it, it somehow doesn't seem so topical any more.
4) Chuck it on the blog instead.
What can we see this week on Telegraph TV, the thrusting new cross-platform initiative which executive Ed Roussel claims epitomses “our philosophy and forms the pillars of our editorial strategy for 2008”?
Well, there’s a series of news packages produced by ITN, which could make useful viewing if, say, the ITN site itself was down, along with that of every other major news broadcaster that you would consult for video ahead of a broadsheet newspaper. There’s the Culture Minute, launched soon after the Telegraph berated the BBC’s plans for a 60-second news broadcast as “dumbing down” and “catering to the lowest common denominator” – a charge that certainly could not be levelled at presenter Sarah Crompton’s recent opening observation that “Lily Allen makes everyone smile as a singer, but how’s she doing as a chat-show host?” There are exciting one-off reports such as Bryony Gordon’s piece to camera on receiving a “psychic makeover”, which is appropriately delivered séance-style, in almost complete darkness, complete with mysterious objects levitating above her head (oh, alright, it’s a sound boom). There is an excruciating Bafta red-carpet report from her rival Celia Walden, who promises “we’ll be speaking to some of the biggest stars in the world,” but actually ends up chatting her own boyfriend and to Myleene Klass, who was only there herself to deliver similar red carpet “content” for mobile phone company Orange.
Since any Telegraph staffers with genuine TV talent are busy elsewhere – Jeff Randal has his own Sky News show and won’t provide anything more than the odd cameo; Boris Johnson wouldn’t touch this with a bargepole – we instead have plenty of perfectly adequate print hacks nervously DEMONSTRATING that they’ve BEEN through the “TALKING to CAMERA” training SESSION on HOW to speak VERY slowly and EMPHASISE words AT random, and in the process, demonstrating just what perfectly adequate print hacks they are. And there is Right On, “the politics show that leans to the right”, launched with much fanfare soon after the public’s appetite for political television proved so voracious that ITV axed its Sunday Westminster programming because no one was watching it. Co-presenters Andrew Pierce and Ann Widdecombe sit at a table covered in an enormous number of empty wine glasses, presumably demonstrating just how much booze you would have to sink for any of this to begin to look remotely appealing.
Herein, however, lies the crown jewel of Telegraph TV – indeed, perhaps the greatest achievement in broadcasting since It’s A Royal Knockout – Heffer Confronted. Sadly viewers do not get to vote on the identity of the confronter each week (A hysterical toddler? An escaped tiger? Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?). Instead, Simon Heffer spends each Thursday in the company of failed Tory candidate Iain Dale, who, to add an extra frisson, is obliged to straddle the irascible columnist’s lap and debate the finer points of Conservative policy while their bellies gently bump together just off-screen. The intention is to reproduce the famous head-to-head set-up from Smith and Jones - albeit in this case with two Mel Smiths - but the black-and-white title sequence in which the besuited pair stride about and scowl menacingly into the camera recalls instead that other 1980s comedy duo Hale and Pace doing “The Management”, despite in seven seconds being infinitely more hilarious than their entire career.
Absent, despite the lengthy and vociferous campaign by the Telegraph a few years back against the BBC’s “urban bias” after its coverage of the hunting ban and the dropping of One Man And His Dog, is any mention of rural issues. For the 150 years the Telegraph existed as a single-platform content provider (one that was difficult to fold and got ink on your hands), the shires were its natural constituency. Now however, readers are offered a cookery show with Lloyd Grossman and endless fashion makeovers. In the unlikely event that any of them actually wanted to see this sort of thing done properly, wouldn’t they a) switch on a telly; b) read the Daily Mail instead?
That was quite fun, all that hyper-linking business, wasn't it? Shall we do it again sometime?