Despite the frequent lapses of our free and fearless press, British journalism still manages to uphold some standards of decency, so when the BBC released details of the kinds of salaries it paid its top talent, and clearly marked the pages as embargoed until 1100 hours today, most observed that caution. But there had to be one self-promotion expert wanting to make the whole exercise about Himself Personally Now.
And don't forget who he's backed to the hilt
And to no surprise at all, that self-promotion expert was former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, no longer a CNN host, but now three mornings a week co-presenter of ITV’s Good Morning Britain, who took time out from telling his adoring public how wonderful he was to break the embargo, and thereby earn an industrial-size raspberry from those journalists who can still understand words like “professionalism”.
Morgan, no stranger to talking without listening, decided to break the embargo - by less than an hour - and then call it a scoop. He then proceeded to patronisingly lecture anyone passing adverse comment upon his idiocy. So when Janine Gibson of BuzzFeed pointed out his lack of principle, he sneered “I understand the word 'scoop' better”. Ian Prior of the Guardian got “Aww...somebody got scooped and is feeling very, VERY angry”.
The “scoop” was worth next to nothing - except to fuel the ego of another of those Clever People Who Talk Loudly In Restaurants. Still, onwards and, er, onwards, eh? For Beth Rigby of Sky News, he added cheap sexism: “Oh settle down, petal. I just scooped you. Be better next time”. Kaya Burgess of the Times objected, little good that it did him or Ms Rigby: “What's sexist about the word ‘petal’?" The problem in one.
Meanwhile, there was an opportunity to double down on his sneer at Ms Rigby: “Why don't you stop whining & start reporting?” This manages to miss that Ms Rigby was doing the genuine reporting, rather than being a self-promoting opportunist who then patronised Sky News producer Nina Saada. She concluded Morgan was a misogynist, which prompted The Great Man to crack a joke: “Flowers are gender-fluid. Relax”.
Laugh? I thought I’d never start. Still there was more patronising, especially when Alastair Stewart at ITN opined “Breaking an embargo, with stuff we've all been sitting on for hours, is not a 'scoop', it is naff, delusional & unprofessional”. “You snooze, you lose mate” was the hugely unfunny response, followed by “I'd like to apologise to all fellow journalists I scooped on BBC salary story. I can't help being this good at my job, unfortunately”.
After that came the faux bragging, pretending he was earning rather more than he actually is: “I'm also truly shocked at the size of these BBC salaries. They get out of bed for THAT?” But Morgan had by now inflated his self-promotion soufflé well behind the limits of its viability, and all that was needed was Natasha Loder of the Economist to fire back “How much would we have to pay for you to stay in bed? #askingforafriend”.
Piers Morgan might think he’s been incredibly clever. And, as he doesn’t front GMB on Thursdays, he won’t have to face his co-presenters or production team tomorrow morning. But for a large number of more serious journalists, his reputation just jumped from gutter to sewer. He’d better hope ITV bosses still think he’s worth the aggro.