First, select the target for your vitriol. Next, sharpen your pencil, dash off your poison piece and send it to your paper. Job done. Then just sit back and wait for the cheque to arrive …
From that opening, you might think I’m going to comment about Jan Moir’s recent item about Stephen Gately that appeared in the Daily Mail and stirred up a hornet’s nest of complaints, rebuttals, blog items and general outrage across the social networking community.
But no. This is about a piece written by Carole Malone that appeared on page 27 in the first edition of the News Of The World on Sunday 18th October 2009.
Headlined Cheryl’s In Peril, Malone first professed to be a “big Cheryl Cole fan”, then bemoaned the “£1 million a year” salary she gets for being a judge on ITV’s talent show and asked: “… why did she mime her new solo single on last night’s X Factor?”
Sharpening her claws as well as her pencil, she continued: “It suggests she can’t sing. It suggests that she isn’t capable of doing a big number on her own. It also suggests she doesn’t have the guts to perform in front of a live audience — all the things the inexperienced contestants are expected to do without a murmur.”
Malone contended that “Our love affair with Cheryl Cole is based on the fact that while she’s undoubtedly beautiful she’s also feisty, gutsy and afraid of nothing.”
Then she concluded: “However, last night’s performance showed that, unlike the X Factor finalists, she’s not a real talent at all — just a coiffed, over-promoted, manufactured one.”
“And, God only knows why,” she wailed, “but that disappoints me.”
Now, I’m not the first to have spotted what was wrong with this picture — a quick search this morning turned up, amongst other items, a bulletin board post which mentioned it, and Tony Blackburn also tweeted about it:
If you saw the first edition of the News of the World this morning Carole Malone saw Cheryl Cole perform her song on Saturdays X Factor. link to tweet
In the first edition she reviewd the performance before she’d performed it,amazing.In the later edition the article was amazingly altered. link to tweet
Was I the only person in the country to notice this remarkable bit of journalism.It’s incredible to write a review before it’s happened !! link to tweet
Incredible, indeed. Cheryl wasn’t seen performing on Saturday’s X Factor. She performed her new single on Sunday’s show, and she didn’t mime — it was obvious to anyone who watched the show that she was singing most, if not all, of it live: frankly, if she had been miming throughout, it would have sounded considerably more polished than it did. (Sorry Cheryl.)
The show itself was not pre-recorded on the Saturday night because the voting phone lines were still open during part of Sunday’s show, and after all the fuss caused in the past by TV companies pulling the wool over viewers’ eyes regarding previous voting scams, ITV would never risk another debacle by allowing show host Dermot O’Leary to keep telling us it was a live show when it wasn’t. (Whitley Houston’s wardrobe malfunction being shown on the show is another indicator that it was live — if it had been pre-recorded, they would have stopped when the diva’s dress-strap came apart behind her back, fixed it, and started her piece again, leaving us none the wiser.) When Cheryl resumed her judge’s seat, she was a little out of breath, was perspiring, and I believe I spotted that she was still wearing part of the costume she had worn when singing just minutes before — all indicators that she had, indeed, been singing live on a live show.
However, whether or not Cheryl sang live is not the issue. What is at issue is the paper’s column item, which was published before the event itself had taken place.
Carole Malone’s review may have undergone changes for later editions of the News Of The World (I haven’t seen them, and at this time of writing there’s no sign of either the original or the re-write at the paper’s web site), but the truth is out there: Malone’s original piece was already ‘put to bed’ in time for the early-morning print-run of the newspaper before anyone spotted her mistake — a mistake borne out of sheer journalistic laziness. Some unkind observers might conclude that she’d long made up her mind to savage Cheryl’s performance, perhaps inspired by internet speculation during the previous few days that Cheryl might not sing live. Furthermore, they might infer that she didn’t watch Saturday night’s show at all before writing about it.
I’ve contacted Carole Malone using the e-mail address given at the top of her column and invited her to explain the discrepancy. Thus far it appears (to coin a phrase so beloved of the gutter press) she is unavailable for comment.
In the meantime, some may have already come to the conclusion that all of this suggests Carole Malone is, perhaps, not a real journalist at all — just a coiffed, over-promoted, manufactured one.
You might very well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.
Thanks to Private Eye for the inspiration for this item’s headline.
Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net