Ceaseless sleaze: the press is crazed with chasing sex offences

November 20, 2012 8:00 pm

“Sometimes I feel like the fire hydrant looking at a pack of dogs. For six years I had declined to tell those kinds of jokes, because I have been told it is not presidential. But I feel kind of outdoorsy today.” –Bill Clinton

I was distractedly travelling between East London’s public libraries on Thursday, in search of a copy of The Catcher in the Rye, a book I’d wanted to re-read for a long time, when I picked up an Evening Standard from Stratford Station instead. I had already read half of it on the train from Liverpool Street and left it in the carriage hurrying to get out, but to my surprise, this one had a different front page although it was still dated November 15th. I went back in the station to get the other one and it took fifteen minutes of ransacking through the postmodernist tangled aluminium nightmare that is the Stratford centre complex to find it under a bench.

If printing two different editions of a newspaper on the same day without announcement might be common practice in the business of regional dailies, I wasn’t aware of it. I am, after all, a rookie whose instincts tick at random details, maybe out of sheer boredom. The only indication of the two copies being different editions is a small ‘2’ printed in the lower left corner of the one on the right (pictured above). The paper on the left, with Keira Knightley on the front page, doesn’t bear any distinctive sign at all.

The depressing perspective of an empty day, combined with an emptier bank account and bleak skies above drove me to reluctantly start examining the differences between the two wads of newsprint I had in my hands. Beer in one hand and pen in the other, I found the following:

Keira Knightly was removed from the front page, and (probably upon some new intelligence arising after that version went to the printer) the story about the old man being held on ‘sexual offences’ was expanded in the second edition. David Lee Travis – an ex DJ and Radio Host- was accused of sexual abuse in the form of ‘jiggling’ a woman’s tits in the studio and putting his hand up the skirt of another. That was all the new information contained in the second edition. The background copy is the same in both articles – shown on the front page of the first edition and page 5 of the second.

On the fifth page, the early edition has Lord McAlpine expressing his anger and soul ache about the wrongful accusations of ‘noncing’ against him. In the 2nd, the story of McAlpine’s innocence has been cut in half, to allow room for the arrest of DJ Travis.

That is all the disparity between the two, and it left me vaguely confused about the reasons for this effort. The paper’s ‘E-edition’ shows both versions – as West End Final A (afternoon) and West End Final B (evening) online. So, there are two printing sessions per working day, and occasional modifications are made to the newspaper in the meanwhile. Why they are even called ‘final’ if there’s two of them must be a matter of policy having to do with the complexity of Fleet Street’s underbelly, which I won’t even attempt to comprehend. No, Sir. A booze-bent head from the wrong side of the continent may be stuck safely in some affairs, but not in absolutely all. Restraint decapitated no cats. Curiosity did, allegedly.

But what would make an editorial team go to the trouble of redesigning the front page of a paper on the same day it’s already being printed and distributed? According to PressDisplay.com, a similar switch happened on the 28th of September in the Evening Standard this year when the news of Megan Stammers (the teen who ran away with her teacher) being found in France was added to the front page of ‘West End Final B’ next to the 7 Britons who died in the plane crash over Mount Everest.  It is therefore common practice to change front pages between prints on the same day so long as lawless carnal intercourse is somehow the subject. It would be fair to have the exact edition, A or B, prominently specified somewhere – so in case anybody doesn’t like the front page there’s always the option to go scouring tube stations for the other one. It’s improbable that there will be two sex scandals holding both ‘West End Final’ front pages, but you never know.

All kinds of breaking news emerge round the clock without stirring the press establishment into taking urgent measures, but as soon as a name gets tied into a seedy saga nobody thinks twice. We are living in strange times. Surely there must be other events going on in the world these days, and even in London, to make the front pages … like Big British Finance fixing commodity prices under the table, robbing gas consumers blind … or Israel and Palestine bombing each other to smithereens in the context of at least three other countries in the immediate region approaching critical mass. Wait. What? “Officers are looking at three strands within their inquiry: claims against Savile, those against Savile and others, and those against others. Most of the “others” allegations have been made within the entertainment industry,” says Kiran Randhawa for the Standard. According to the website, 10 out of 13 of her stories in the past month have covered the sprawling show-biz sex scandal which started with Savile raping children and continues now with a radio DJ touching a grown woman’s breasts.

The British reader seems to be a ferociously avid specimen when it comes to sexually deviant behaviour of any description, as long as it’s on the front page…  But it’s not only the ES reader. It’s everybody, with or without consent. You can’t open a newspaper lately without the foul stench of bloodlust rushing out. Since the king-hell media spectacle which was the Olympic Games, the press’ appetite for cheap sordid circus has only swollen. There’s no stopping a boar from finishing the job once it picks up on gory flesh. I only happened to catch the Standard in the act of feeding, but they’re not even directly involved.

That crooked ferret Jimmy Savile managed to drag an entire country into his very own cesspool, and even jolt the structure of the BBC – ‘the gold standard of journalism,’ – so hard that George Entwistle, the director general has resigned after the corporation went mad with kiddy sex thoughts. This all would make for blithe hilarity, were it not for the victims of the abuses – both by the physical predators and by the media sensation-mongers. Live people who went through severe trauma only to be exploited by a bunch of wild-eyed hacks competing with each other for headlines. So we beat on.

The Savile scandal has whipped all British media into a frenzy of rare proportions. If there’s no sex with young children to speak of today, then let’s see who else in the BBC got freaky on the job? Whatever works. Why ride a bike from work when you can pay the overpriced tube journey and at the same time read front page filth for free? Indeed.

I will continue to read the Standard and keep sending dispatches of country gumption to the Moon Project headquarters in the placid Highlands. Not lastly because it’s easily available for analysis, it’s also a newspaper generally worth reading under normal conditions, and that’s why it deserves the attention we’re giving it here. For all my aspirations of becoming a professional journalist soon, this might be another bridge I burn before crossing, but so what? You can’t go against nature, and what’s more, I noticed a couple of ads to Mature Dating websites on Moon Project lately. The prospects are good, things are moving forward. I know in my heart that next time I get thrown out of a newsroom and threatened with eviction, the gates of our Scottish citadel will be wide open.


Editors Note: The MoonProject citadel will certainly always be open to you Harry, although I might just update you on a few things. Firstly, whilst of course being patriotically Scottish, we are now based in London and secondly, the adverts that appear on your computer are designed by Google to adhere to whatever it has decided your ‘interests’ are. I’m not entirely sure what would lead to online dating adverts…..

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