We were telephoned today by the Letters Page department of the Times(..of London) no less:
"We'd like to print your letter 'Blair - Science Champion' ....but have you submitted the letter to any other newspaper at all??"
Drat! Honesty is our middle name(and pseudonym) and we found ourselves confessing that a copy had also been sent to the Letters pages of the Independent....
"Sorry - in that case we won't be able to consider it for publication..."
Our reply: "So you don't - as a matter of course - cross-check with the other broadsheets so as to avoid duplicate publication of readers' letters?"
"No. We only publish letters exclusively."
"That's precisely why I asked the question about cross-checking with other newspapers."
"It's our policy to publish letters exclusively."
Dum dee dum - obviously the concept of joined-up journalism/thinking had not (even) caught on in the Letters department - we threw in the towel and hung up.
Now we had always assumed that - to avoid duplication - the Letters Page departments of all the major national newspapers - the broadsheets at least - would have some kind of shared online cross-checking log/bulletin-board/mechanism in place so that each newspaper could post up brief details of the letters (author's name, first half-dozen words of letter...) they're considering for publication on any given day....
Anyway, we'd sent our letter 'Blair- Science Champion' to the Times in immediate response to that newspaper's front-page headline article :
"Blair Condemns Protestors Who Thwart Science"
...in which the reader is treated to several spiffing sneak-preview extracts from an imminent Blair speech. Here's one red-rag-to-a-bull example:
"It is time speak up for science...there are huge opportunities in science for medical progress and for dealing with some of the great environmental and economic challenges."
So here is that inevitable EVUK letter to which, as we say, the Times demanded nothing less than...er..exclusive publishing rights:
So Tony Blair now claims to be a champion of science, research and innovation.
What wonderful news!
Can we therefore now confidently expect the Prime Minister to give his full, evangelical support to a recent, strongly-worded but scarcely reported recommendation from none other than his Chief Science Advisor Professor David King (Interview: Independent, Feb 17) that the Government set out, as soon as possible, a timetable and a California-style mandate for the phasing out of the Internal Combustion Engine and for its replacement with zero emission "electric and fuel cell" alternatives??
Yours faithfully, Paul G..etc.