Nick Thomas Media Matter
There were two hugely important stories about the media last weekend – as long as you’re actually interested in the media, and the small community of people who make and comment upon these things. One was the first edition of Sunday AM, a good title for BBC 1’s new Sunday morning political show, incorporating the initials of Andrew Marr, who has taken over the slot from David Frost; the other the launch of the “Berliner” Guardian.
Many years ago, when I was reviewing television for the Telegraph, I was invited, and duly went, to the launch of Breakfast with Frost, which was a horrible event involving stale croissants and ersatz bucks fizz at 9.30 am.The people who organise these things don’t understand what hacks actually want.
Never mind. Sir David has now retired, and is replaced by Old Bat-Ears, sometime, briefly, editor of The Independent, BBC politics hack, once considered New Labour lackey, now grand old man of objective political journalism.
When Marr was appointed to the BBC top political job, with his well-publicised friendships among the New Labour high command, I wrote in this column that he was above all a journalist, and would not be the toy of Government: and so it proved. But those cosy relationships will certainly stand him in good stead in his new job.
But the style of Sunday AM is interesting in itself. In the first edition – in case you had sensibly slept until the cricket came on – Andy dominated the stage, moving from an interview with Kevin Spacey to one with Gordon Brown simply by moving across the studio to another sofa-and-chair arrangement on the other side; with the actor and artistic director of the Old Vic, who could clearly see the Chancellor taking his seat not ten feet away, doing his best to sound sensible while the axe, as it were, hovered over his head. But Spacey might also have noticed that this arrangement involved one of the rules of staging and film, namely that the dominant character is always seen on the audience’s right. He was there, but Brown was placed on Marr’s right, therefore our left; so in the interview with the Chancellor Marr had a natural advantage. Even so the PM-inwaiting had a pretty easy ride. If AM wants to shake off the slur of being a friend of the Government he’s got to do better than that.
Then there’s the newspaper that the Labour Party once thought was its house organ, at least among the middle class, soi-disant intellectual Left, the Guardian. Some of us have not yet finished laughing at its last major redesign, which dumped the already ridiculous Cooper Black font (same as Wimpy burgers: remember them?) in favour of a lower case italic definite article before the name of a once and maybe still in some senses great newspaper. Now the rag notorious for its literals and typos – notwithstand ing modern technology – has reinvented itself yet again, not as a tabloid, which would have been merely copying the Indie and the Times, but as something called a “Berliner”, a European format somewhere between the two.
I have to confess that I forgot to buy the last ever broadsheet Guardian – but then I’d forgotten to buy about the last 500 issues as well. I did, however, remember to buy the first “Berliner” version on Monday, and was amused to see that editor Alan Rusbridger’s mission statement, celebrating the new format, had to be carried on to page two because it was too long to fit the new space on the front.
The thing now looks like a supplement of someone else’s newspaper. Long live the broadsheet Telegraph, say I.