Sunday Times, c. 1995

I’ve lately been reading Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News, an excellent book-length attack on the dire state of British journalism. Grimly informative for the most part, it does turn up a few headslappingly ridiculous events. Like the aftermath of when a protest group called the ‘Lesbian Avengers’ invaded the Sunday Times offices:

Ellis, formerly of the Sun, was managing editor responsible for news and he really didn’t like what the lesbian avengers had done, so he put his head together with a couple of other executives and decided that what was needed here was a bit of infiltration: they would put an undercover reporter in among these women and expose their evil ways. And no sooner was the idea agreed than the reporter was chosen. Ciaran Byrne would go in undercover. This was an odd choice because Ciaran Byrne was a trainee with little experience of reporting and none at all of working undercover, which is always demanding and sometimes dangerous. Furthermore, Ciaran Byrne is a man. That caused a little trouble.
Byrne didn’t want to do it. The women would spot him immediately, as soon as he started to speak, he complained. No problem, said the executives: they’d get him a voice coach to teach him to sound likme a woman. And they would get a clothing coach to teach him to dress like a woman. Byrne protested that he still wouldn’t look like a woman. But that wast he point, explained the executives: ‘They’re all so bloody ugly, they look like men!”

‘Course, by picking up and propagating the most ridiculous passage in the book, despite the story not existing anywhere else on the internet, I’m doing exactly what Davies gets justifiably grumpy at the press for. Mea maxima culpa.

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