Come on, guys, Kate Adie managed to look good in khaki and keep her pearl earrings on, even under fire

This was the week that the Mirror editor, Piers Morgan, finally announced his strategy for the newspaper: better read than dead. He also made clear that he'd rather be dead than red.

So the Morgan of today - replacing the Mirror's traditional red masthead with a black one - has come a long way since he relaunched the paper in February 1997. He said then: "I am trying to do things differently, for that I make no apology." There followed a long battle to out-Sun the Sun - red tops at dawn - a battle that ended on Tuesday with the release of the new (or should that be old?) Daily Mirror.

That Morgan's 1997 defence of his paper included a vociferous attack on one John Pilger and almost all the chattering media shows how far he has come in his journey from red-top to black-top. There was a time when the only black-top Morgan took an interest in was attached to a lace stocking.

Now Pilger is re-employed by the Daily Mirror and used to symbolise the paper's return to its more traditional values - Labour-supporting but anti- government; champion of the underdog, whether that be the working classes or the Palestinians; pro-European but anti-American; campaigning but retaining a sense of humour; sport, sport and more sport. And so the Daily Mirror, former bete noire of the left, has become its new media darling, much praised and twice awarded.

Although 11 September is seen as the turning point, the metamorphosis began long before that, and there has been a stream of top-class writers heading to Canary Wharf over the past year.

It's a shame, though, that when trumpeting his writers Morgan can find only one woman, the columnist Sue Carroll (forgive me, Piers, for not describing the gorgeous 3am girls as writers). But women are well served elsewhere. The Saturday magazine M and in-paper supplements are modern, fresh and rather sophisticated.

Morgan, now the longest-surviving Mirror editor since the mid-1980s and the reign of Mike Molloy, has clearly abandoned the red-top rule that you can never underestimate the intelligence of your readers. Underestimate him at your peril. Front-page stories now are on survivors in Jenin, not on the hit TV series Survivor.

The big question is: where will these new readers come from?

As the Daily Mirror races out of the red-top market, there is only one newspaper which is bucking all the trends and recording significant and consistent increases in sales, and that is the Daily Star. As the combined Mirror and Sun sales fell by 195,000 copies (according to ABC's March 2002 on March 2001 figures), this chippy little outsider brought in 87,000 new sales.

It could be argued that, whether it's Ken Livingstone or Heinz Tomato Ketchup, once red, always red. But dropping the red top does send a signal, overtly to the media and covertly to readers past, present and future, that the Mirror has changed.

As Morgan said in that article in 1997: "If we get it right . . . we might truly be the paper for the new millennium and it might be the Sun who suddenly discover they are old-fashioned."

Just as news that the Tories would not slavishly follow Labour policy on taxation and the NHS was greeted with cheers - at last there was clear blue water between the parties - so the same can be said of the Mirror's repositioning. Only, on this occasion, the water between the two rivals, like that infested by sharks, is red.


Relieved to see that Morgan retained his sense of humour. On the day of the relaunch, as the new black top was unveiled, he could not resist placing a two-inch red basement on the front page. From red top to red bottom, without even a red face.


My mother told me never to trust a man who drops his aitches, so I must confess to having long been suspicious of Jon Snow. Also high on her list of danger signals were men who refused to dress properly, or who enjoyed playing pretend games (soldiers, doctors and nurses, etc). Enter Jon - no tie, no pack drill - Snow, reporting live, just, from the Middle East. Why is it that sensible, accomplished middle-aged male journalists insist on playing toy soldiers the moment they hear gunfire? And is it my imagination or is there a special "war-torn" make-over: wind-blown hair (or is it bomb-blown?), jacket and tie discarded, shirt unbuttoned to reveal rivulets of sweat - not from fear, mind you, but the heat of battle?

Come on, guys, Kate Adie managed to look good in khaki and keep her pearl earrings on - even under fire.

A sweaty, open-shirted Ben Brown, reporting for the BBC from Afghanistan - deliciously dusty and with the kind of chest hair a girl could run her fingers through - wins Toy Boy Soldier of the Week.


Heard the one About a Boy (Hugh Grant) who breaks up with a girl (Liz Hurley) who then has a baby boy (Damian), but not with the boy, and, as happy happenchance will have it, both of them go on to make a fortune around the boy - her from a rumoured £1.5m for pictures of mother and baby boy, and him from not talking about baby boy at the premiere of his new movie About a Boy, which is all about a cynical fortysomething who inveigles his way into women's affections by ingratiating himself with other people's children?

Lucky for all of them that Liz Hurley had a Caesarean, or baby Damian might not have been born in time for Hugh not to talk about him at the world premiere of his movie!