The Curmudgeon


Monday, November 01, 2004

News 2020

News so new it hasn't happened yet

When it eventually happens, you'll read here that we told you so

The number of British newspapers being edited by empty suits is still growing, according to a study released today. Both Fox International and Murdoch Disney, who between them own all the country's major national newspapers, have begun employing more and more suits without finding it necessary to find people to fill them up.

Now that computer checking has eliminated the need for proofreaders, and international, government-sponsored fact supply agencies have obviated the need for reporters to leave their desks, news corporations are beginning to find human editors a needless expense.

Retired Guardian editor Allan Fusbudget is ambivalent about the development. "There's certainly less risk of editorial interference if there's nobody inside the editor's suit," he said. "But I think that without a guiding hand - if there's only a cuff to help - I think some reporters may find it difficult to retain their objectivity."

"We don't think there's been any decline in standards," said Murdoch Disney spokesman Meese Hackett. "Whatever job we're hiring for, we've always hired whoever's best suited for the work." Both Murdoch and Fox operate a strict equal opportunities policy, with equal numbers of posts going to male and female outfits, and with no discrimination on the grounds of necktie garishness or shoulder-pad extension.

In fact, several newspapers report greater efficiency as a result of "cutting out the middleman" between Government press offices and the reporters who transcribe their releases for the general public. "There's a lot less interference," said Independent reporter Lydia Quinone. "Before, there was no guarantee that what went out in the paper would even resemble what I'd written. Now that it's just the Armani pinstripe in charge, there's no problem."

News agencies are also making savings in other ways. Empty suits do not claim dry-cleaning bills on their expense accounts, or impose Byzantine filing systems on their staff; and only a few of the more exclusive made-to-measure type take drugs. "It's remarkable how smoothly things run now that there's nothing inside the suit," Ms Quinone observed. "I'll be very surprised if it doesn't catch on in other professions."

Indeed, several advertising agencies have expressed an interest in recruiting more suits. A spokesman from Frogmorton Cullups, of New York, said that the agency was already looking into the possibility of specifying "Empties welcome" on future application invites.


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