Watching brief - Amanda Platell sees too many ads in the Telegraph

Advertisements all but obliterated pages two and three of Saturday's <em>Telegraph</em>. The reader

The relationship with your daily newspaper is not dissimilar to a marriage - you are immersed in the familiar daily routine, and it can take a while for you to realise that things have gone wrong. I had that feeling last Saturday with the Daily Telegraph.

The deeply moving interview with Sir Ranulph Fiennes after the death of his beloved wife, Ginny, was spread across pages two and three, and these pages had been all but obliterated by advertisements. This was unusual positioning: page two of any broadsheet on its biggest-selling day, Saturday, is usually the shop window for the paper. What usually happens in newspapers is that there is a healthy and daily struggle between the advertising and editorial departments. The former presents the latter with its ideal newspaper layout, complete with huge ads on every page, and the latter tells it to piss off. A compromise is duly reached between the commercial and editorial needs of the title.

Clearly no such exchange took place when that week's Saturday Telegraph was being laid out. It is a worrying precedent for a newspaper valiantly struggling along while it awaits news of its next owner.

Meanwhile, the Barclay brothers pulled out of the race to purchase the paper, clearly thinking the new £600m price tag on the Telegraph Group titles was too rich. They are not alone. Any new owner with a mind first to the bottom line will seek to recoup this overspend, and so the precedents set during this interim period are all the more dangerous.

The heavily added Telegraph left the reader feeling rather cheated. And as any journalist knows, you cheat your reader at your peril.

Trinity Mirror's chief executive, Sly Bailey, is about to find out whether price matters, having just increased the price of the Daily Mirror to 35p against the Sun's 30p and holding. The former magazine executive is attempting to pull off the same trick as the Guardian did when it launched its ground-breaking and much-imitated Guide - bump up sales one day to help the weekly figures.

She has launched a pocket-sized gossip magazine on Wednesdays, based on the Mirror's successful 3am showbiz format. I doubt it will be enough, despite a huge television advertising campaign. With so many magazines now on offer, the novelty has worn off and they tend to lock in readers, not lure them.

The "grouping together" of all the Mirror's magazine titles spells only one thing - rationalisation. And that, I'm

afraid, is a newspaper word for "sackings".

The much-heralded new ITV news format burst on to our screens in all its lurid glory. The revamp is an attempt to head off the award-winning Sky News, which has just walked off with another trophy for best news channel. ITV has been running promos for the various new-look news programmes featuring the presenters, who are as cheerful as they are colourful.

Not since Michael Howard, Theresa May and Oliver Letwin stood beside Iain Duncan Smith outside Conservative Central Office, as he assured us that he had the complete support of his party, have I seen so many people look quite so uncomfortable. And Mary Nightingale performed the new, impromptu, cross-the-studio format slightly more elegantly than a transsexual hippopotamus in ill-fitting Jimmy Choos.

Arresting headline, shame about the relentlessly dreary piece by Fiona Millar in the Observer: "Why middle-class parents should go for the local comp". I'd say don't give up the day job - but it's a bit late for that, love.

Ms Millar, partner of Alastair Campbell, has, since leaving her job as adviser to Cherie Blair at No 10, attempted to carve out for herself a new writing and broadcasting career as the voice of conscience of the left in education. She argues that "the best thing for our children is to be educated among pupils from all backgrounds".

What a pity the highly principled Ms Millar did not voice any of these deeply held views prior to her mate Tony's election as Prime Minister, or in any of the six years subsequently. One can only wonder why she did not feel the need to speak out back in 1996, when the local comprehensive for the Blair kids would have been Islington Green, one of the roughest and toughest schools in London at the time.

In the first in-depth interview since filing for divorce, the actress Sadie Frost tells GQ her marriage ended because Jude Law put his career before their family. She has since consoled herself with a little partying, she says, a lot of Jackson Scott (a 22-year-old flamenco guitarist) and has also indulged her love of pole dancing by having a pole specially built in her home. The normally expansive Sadie chose not to reveal which room she'd had the pole installed in.

This article first appeared in the 08 March 2004 issue of the New Statesman, Bush or Kerry? No difference