Lost in space . . .

15 Jan

THE light streaming down stairs at the end of the darkened editorial floor emanates from the Deputy Editor’s office. I wander along the aisle between empty desks where, during the daylight hours, reporters finger keyboards and answer calls from the Nitherley public. Then I climb echoing steps to a cold, semi-circular room overlooking the town centre. It’s Sunday night and the streets are quiet.

The Deputy Editor is peering through his window at the night sky. He turns around when he hears me enter, then sighs and slumps in his chair.

“I can’t understand it, Pork Chop,” he says deflated, pink fingers turning the pages of a small yellow book on his desk. “I thought I had, at long last, completed my first I-Spy book, but just thumbing through my classic 1966 edition of I-Spy the Sky – which is surely a collector’s item – it transpires I have not observed the constellation Orion. Or, to be more precise, I have actually observed it but failed to record it and, most importantly, failed to make a note of the date.”

“Does it matter that much?” I venture, removing a box of Airfix models from a chair and sitting down.

“Well, the thing is,” he continues, “if I just enter any old date and Big Chief I-Spy checks it before validating the book and sending me a certificate, then I’ll be up the creek and my reputation as a journalist will be in tatters.”

“Hmmm . . .” I attempt to help him out of a black hole. “Have you had a look tonight? You won’t see it from this window because Orion is quite low in the southern sky at the moment. You need to be up on the roof.”

“Gosh, Pork Chop. I didn’t know you were a star-gazer. I might just do that later. Thank you ever so much. Right. What brings you up here? What can I do for you? I was about to go home, but I see you’re clutching a piece of paper that looks like it might be terribly important.”

“Yes,” I say, unfolding the sheet of A4. “This is a story that’s just dropped on the Press Association wire. It’s outlining who will be appearing next week before the Leveson Inquiry into press standards. The main person is Ian Hislop, TV personality and editor of Private Eye. Then further down we have a list of editors from the regional press. Let me read you this paragraph.”

“Further testimony will be provided by regional newspaper editors from the Yorkshire Post, the Irish News, the South Wales Evening Post, the Belfast Telegraph, the Manchester Evening News, the Scotsman, the Ipswich Evening Star, the Herald, and the Nitherley Observer and Bugle.”

“Deary me,” says the Deputy Editor. “Our illustrious Editor has been called to appear before the Leveson Inquiry – but unfortunately he is, at this very moment in time, on a bright orange jet bound for Majorca and a family holiday in the sun. What will happen when he fails to appear before Leveson?”

“Dunno. Contempt?”

“But is the inquiry governed by the same strictures as a criminal court?”

“It’s being held in the Royal Courts of Justice. And Leveson is a judge.”

“Ooooh. He is in a pickle. Anyway, more pressing business. You say that we can probably see Orion from the roof?”

“Yes.”

“Right. Shall we avail ourselves of a couple of coffees from that horrendous machine and take a stroll up there . . . ?”

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