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Home > Media

Journojism: James Whitaker

23 July 2004

Some critics argue that the Daily Mirror began to go downhill when Paul Foot left in 1993. Others contend that it turned to excrement when it hired Tony Parsons or the 3am Girls. Others still lay the blame firmly at the well-heeled feet of James Whitaker. Then there are those who maintain that the Daily Mirror has always been shit, and while we have an awful lot of sympathy with this view, we'd like for a moment to concentrate our disdain on the ghastly journalistic barnacle that is James Whitaker.

If you've never read Whitaker's regular full-page Saturday column, we urge you to do so immediately. In the same way we might urge you to squeeze your head into a blackened bowl of a public toilet and see how far you can get your face around the U-bend. Just for the mad hell of a vile experience.

At the top of the page, nestling under the ex-royal correspondent's grinning tux-necked headshot, and offering an example of his deliciously wicked sense of humour, are the words 'Britain's Greatest Columnist (Though I Say So Myself)'. What cheek! What chutzpah! What a cock.

For the full toilet-bowl experience, you need go no further than last Saturdays column. Whitaker's genius lies in cramming as many as possible of the following five key ingredients into every single column: something arse-crampingly unfunny; something hideously conceited; something ostensibly wilfully controversial (but actually painfully reactionary); something embarrassingly sycophantic; and something blindingly obvious. Most of his columns contain at least four of these elements, but a classic - such as this week's - will contain all five.

To begin with, the Unfunny: a regular strand called, simply 'James's Jokes'. This week's joke centred on 'Farmer Green' getting stranded on top of his car in the river and almost being rescued by 'Farmer Balls', but in the end being rescued by 'Farmer Brown'. The punchline... well you can probably guess. A very poor joke, very poorly told.

The Conceited: 'Dear James...' - where Whitaker prints a brief selection of some of the fascinating mail he receives, and a few he makes up himself. He *must* make them up. There can be no possible explanation for week after week of this kind of thing: 'You look years younger following Celebrity Fit Club' and 'A new photograph illustrates your column. The nouveau James, minus the flute, looks very trendy' and 'By the way, I'm not creeping when I say your new physique looks great.' Apparently he won some television programme based around Celebrobesity. And every week, he prints letters sucking his cock for the fact. Yuck.

The Controversial: this week Whitaker came out and said what we imagine he imagines no-one else dares say - that although Bill Clinton is a serial womaniser who doesn't love his wife and can't be trusted, 'he's still standing, punching his weight,' and 'I like the way he supports Britain, believes in the special relationship between his country and ours and wants it to improve.' He also demanded to know if it was absolutely necessary for women to breastfeed their babies in public. 'I've always failed to understand why any woman would want to feed her child while mingling with others. Surely such a beautiful moment, for mother and child, is far better undertaken in private.'

The Obvious: Prince Andrew is a pointless and useless individual. He couldn't quite bring himself to use those words, but that was his gist. Well, bugger us with a massive great double-headed dildo. And *durrr*.

The Sycophantic: where Whitaker puffs his pals. From Saturday: 'To the surprise of nobody, particularly me, Tony Parsons' new novel, The Family Way, immediately went to number one in all the leading bestsellers lists. The man's a marvel. He also has beautiful manners.'

There is no need to say much else at this stage. Except perhaps to pity the state of what was always supposed to be the most dignified end of tabloid journalism, and to end with an extract from the beautifully-mannered Tony Parsons' Monday column:

'At 46, Sharon Stone is a dreamboat, a blonde bombshell, a true sex goddess. At an age when she should be contemplating The Change, the only hot flushes to be seen are among Sharon's army of male admirers. Britney Spears, on the other hand, is a right state at just 22 years of age How to explain the difference? Clearly Sharon - who will soon be flashing her trimmed crotch in Basic Instinct 2 - is making an effort, while Britney is making none.'

At which point, we just stand there with our mouths open, suddenly, and for the first time, feeling very sorry indeed for Julie Burchill.

Paul Foot must be spinning in his grave.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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