Saturday, 27 October 2007

For your eyes only

How newspapers work (i)

Wandering round the City Art Centre as the centenary exhibition for Edinburgh College of Art was being installed this week, I saw a very familiar picture hanging on the wall, a young, naked Sean Connery painted by Al Fairweather. I'd seen prints of it before though never the thing itself, but there was a distinct impression of being whisked past it by my hosts. "Please don't mention that - it's such an old story," said the folks from the college. "I know, but the news editor will love it," I bleated.

And he did. I bigged it up for Sean as much as I could when I filed my copy but not enough for the news editor. He bigged it up a bit more and thus inserted a mistake, which you'll notice if you click on the link below.

Sir Sean

But I was right, and the folks at the college were wrong. The story ran nationally in The Times, was picked up by most other British nationals, was on the front page of Yahoo, and was published in India and America, among other places. Type the words 'Sean Connery' into blogger search now and you'll find the painting all over the place. And it all started with me. Still, that was not enough for the Scottish editor of The Times who was sore pissed off about the mistake (as was I). On the morning of the edition, drawing himself up to his full height, he declared icily: "That's not a towel, it's a codpiece." I couldn't deny it. Dear reader, how that codpiece stung.

How newspapers work (ii)

The foreign editor of Scotland on Sunday calls. "Can you write a profile of Pakistan's prime minister-in-waiting?" Now, the time was when foreign desks were paying stringers in every major city of the world to write this stuff, or using their own in-house team of experts to cook up reams of copy. But in these days of budget cuts and downsizing, at last they come begging to me for help. Aye, the Bhutto's on the other foot now, innit?

Benazir's return

As well as hitting the links for Sir Sean and for Benazir, do read the two pieces which are below this. One is with the crime writer Ian Rankin, and there is interesting stuff there about his debt to William McIlvanney. The other is a very good story about a world famous modernist building, hidden away on a country estate near Helensburgh. The two architects, Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein are both remarkable and delightful men. Isi in particular has an extraordinary life story, part of which I wrote about earlier this year. You can read that if you click We fled Hitler. The piece was written to co-incide with a play so the first couple of paragraphs relate to that, but if you scroll down you can find some very moving accounts from Isi and two other survivors who fled Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport.

We fled Hitler

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