Last week, the Herald Sun launched its new 'extrafood' liftout following a blaze of publicity featuring Britain’s most famous Gordon (ahead of the Prime Minister, the gin and the Big Engine).
Gordon's face - with lines as deep as the cracks in an overcooked orange sponge - filled the front page of the launch edition.
But how would the editors top Gordon for the front page of edition two in yesterday's paper? The answer was sheer genius: Gordon Ramsay! Again! But a different shot!
Just in case you happened not to see the cover, another shot of the celebrity chef dominates page two. And then you turn to read what Gordon Ramsay has to say.
And the answer is: nothing. Extrafood has picked up five recipes from a Gordon Ramsay book – without any introduction or writing at all by the chef himself - and called them 'exclusive'. Exclusive? Gordon Ramsay is about as exclusive as a city-bound tram on St Kilda Road at 5.30 on a Friday night.
What a con-job on Herald Sun readers. The paper had trumpeted Ramsay's 'signing' as a 'coup' in a pre-launch story subheaded The world's hottest chef is joining the Herald Sun:
'Gordon Ramsay ... will contribute a recipe column each Tuesday in our new extrafood section, beginning next week. ... His new column comes as he prepares to visit Australia this month to attend a Sydney food show and launch his new book, Healthy Appetite. ... Herald Sun editor in chief Bruce Guthrie said Ramsay's signing was a huge coup.'
'Joining the Herald Sun', 'contribute' and 'his new column' give the impression that Ramsay is writing, as in actual copy - thoughts, ideas, opinions - exclusively for Herald Sun readers. Forget it, suckers. Take out the spin and the release could have read: We've bought the rights to print a bunch of Gordon Ramsay recipes that you can read in a book anyway.
In fact, the headline should have been Gordon Ramsay Doesn’t Write For Us; But We Print Some of His Recipes Instead, Will That Do?
No, it won’t do. A recipe without accompanying copy is just a recipe. It doesn't matter who wrote it. It's not writing, it's typing, as someone once said about something else.
I’d hate to be a sales representative for extrafood. Not that much advertising has been sold: in yesterday's edition there was a 10x7 strip ad for That’s Me!bourne (sic) on behalf of Docklands (but that’s taxpayer-funded so it doesn’t count – bureaucracies throw advertising money around like confetti); another strip of the same size for the South Melbourne market, and a half-hearted 10x2 for Crown Casino. That’s it, unless you count the host of ads on the all-advertorial spread page, which I don’t.
The rest of the liftout is largely the same as it used to be. Stephen Downes chews his way meticulously through dinner at Attica, pondering the mysteries of thick-lipped soup spoons, his review accompanied by a photograph of a plate on which sits three upturned carrot batons among other indeterminate components, captioned ‘quail breasts with a palette of accompaniments’; Kate McGhie presents more editorial-free recipes and a double-page spread of potted restaurant reviews offers a star grading system starting with ‘nice’ and getting better from there. That’s helpful to the diner. (One amusing feature: aside from Ramsay's overkilled visual presence, a headshot of each writer appears on the masthead of each page next to its title. For some reason, Ed Charles remains unseen. In Ed's place runs a picture of a tasty loaf of bread.)
Food runs out about halfway through the liftout and the editor fills it up with an assortment of what it clearly regards as waifs and strays including arts columns by Herald Sun journalists Harbant Gill, Jeff Makin, Chris Boyd and Kit Galer; theatre listings, starsign predictions and the quiz.
The latter includes the following question for one point: 'Which popular female British TV chef has decreed that camera crews are "not allowed to shoot my bum unless it is out of focus"?'. For three points, the Herald Sun reader has to answer this poser: "What does the French phrase cordon bleu literally mean?"
Says it all really.