Stick with me on this one.
20 years ago ITV screened an amazing Steven Moffat-penned children’s series called Press Gang. The inside track on a school’s kids run newspaper it starred Julia Sawalha (as Lynda basically (Kelvin) Mackenzie in a mini skirt), Dexter Fletcher and the brilliant Paul Reynolds (what the ferret happened to him?).
It was not only superbly scripted, brilliantly acted and daringly topical (they covered drugs, child abuse and more) mainly through the charactar of Lynda it showed journalists as heroes, publishing stories that exposed corruption, took on bullies and helped make school life better for all.
Yet it also showed Lynda as a real person dealing with her own insecurities and hang ups. It was also full of dirty jokes too, which made it a lot more fun than Blue Peter.
Most important of all though like a generation of other kids it inspired me to try my hand at journalism. And I am not the only one. Countless times, in conversation after conversation, other journalists have cited Press Gang and Lynda as the reason they joined the fourth estate.
Fast forward twenty years and the BBC has got a press-related programme on children’s TV. Scoop is a radical reworking of the Evelyn Waugh classic which stars Shaun Williamson (Barry from EastEnders) as a local newspaper journalist. Whereas Lynda was brave, intelligent and honest, Digby Digworth (Shaun’s charactar) is a bumbling, incompetent, lazy fool who is invariably beaten to his stories by his canine chum, the brilliantly named Hacker.
To make things worse the local newspaper editor Max De Lacey (played by Mark Benton) has zero scruples and thinks nothing of making stories up, fixing competitions so his relatives win and more.
Scoop is actually pretty funny, but it does portray journalists in a really negative light. You might scoff, but have local builders’ reputations ever recovered since the Beeb started screening The Chuckle Brothers? Thought not!
With the rise of citizen journalism, the problems of monetising web content and the stuttering economy haven’t local newspaper proprietors have enough on their plate at the moment?
To make amends the BBC should buy the rights to Press Gang re run the original Press Gang and commission a reunion, where Lynda (quite possibly an alcoholic now) and Colin (obviously a banker) team up once more to save the nation from corrupt MPs, dodgy press barons, rioting gangs and morally bankrupt Catalan football teams