Thursday, 4 February 2010

Rat gnaws quiche tale

REGULAR readers of this blog (that’s both of you) will know that I have previously highlighted the strange news values of the national press and how they feed off each other. See the Taffy Thomas tale in the archive.
Well a similar nonsense has been exposed by the story about a young woman being asked for ID to buy quiche in her local branch of Tesco.
The Leamington Observer story about 24-year-old Christine Cuddihy being forced to show her driving licence to staff languished almost unnoticed on its website for almost a week.
However after an agency repackaged the story after tracking down the woman involved, it quickly became national headline news.
The Daily Mail made it top story on its website on Tuesday with most of the rest of the national media swiftly folllowing suit.
Six days later it had become a top talking-point in BBC radio phone-ins while the Mail's online story had attracted more than 800 reader comments.
The Observer's deputy editor Kevin Unitt, who wrote the original story, told Hold The Front Page: “I knew it was a good story, and hoped it would be picked up by the national press, but none seemed particularly interested at first.
“The Sun ran just three lines on it on page 25 last week and the Daily Mail rejected it altogether because The Sun had already covered it, a bizarre decision given they would lead their own website with the story just a few days later.
“How our story – which had been printed for almost a week and for all that time had been visible to all on our website leamingtonobserver.co.uk – finally grew legs nationally was the introduction of a press agency, who tracked down the woman involved, slightly re-packaged the story, and sold it on to their national newspaper contacts.
“On Tuesday, almost a week after we'd ran the piece, the Daily Mail finally screamed it from their website, making it the top story as it generated more than 600 comments from readers across the world in just 12 hours.
Unfortunately a lot of the comments on the HTFP story slag off agencies for picking up and exploiting local journalists’ stories.
“Agencies leech on to the local press, trawl through their websites and do little work and get great rewards,” was typical.
It was ever thus. Besides just try selling stories to the Nationals and you will see what a time-consuming, frustrating and fairly unrewarding exercise it is.
But I was more interested in why this was a story in the first place. One self-confessed cynical hack told HTFP: “google the name of the woman involved and you find she is on Saatchi's graduate scheme. One of the criteria to win a place on Saatchi is to get extensive media coverage. I smell a rat."
Another said: “Is the story true? The comment from Tesco was a bit non-committal. Did they confirm that it actually happened?”
And there lies the rub. If Tesco, also currently famous for its dress policy (no pyjamas and no bare feet), did ask for id before selling a quiche, then it is a story.
If they didn’t, it isn’t.

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