The Times has confirmed it will not be hiring the columnist Stephen Pollard, in the wake of his crude parting shot to Express Newspapers' owner Richard Desmond, writes Jessica Hodgson.
The Times has confirmed it will not be hiring the columnist Stephen Pollard, in the wake of his crude parting shot to Express Newspapers’ owner Richard Desmond.
George Brock, managing editor of the Times told MediaGuardian “We have spoken to Stephen Pollard today and we will not be proceeding with his contract to join the staff of The Times.”
Mr Brock was not prepared to say why the newspaper’s management had revoked the offer of a job.
But is widely accepted that the decision was made after Mr Pollard disguised a message to his former boss in an acrostic in Friday’s Express leader column.
Insiders say the Times took a very dim view of what it considered inappropriate behaviour for a leader writer on the paper of record.
Mr Pollard, who was one of the Express’s regular leader-writers, used the first letter of every paragraph to spell out the phrase “Fuck you Desmond”.
His verbal two-finger salute was hidden within a fairly benign leader column about problems facing the farming industry.
One insider at the Express said “It’s very unprofessional. It’s the kind of thing you might do when you were starting out on the Harlow Gazette. But not if you are an executive on a paper.”
But others berated managers at the Times for having a “sense of humour failure”.
Mr Pollard was among the first high-profile journalists to leave the Express after the takeover by Northern & Shell, publishers of celebrity and soft porn titles OK! and Asian Babes.
He was offered a job on the times as a columnist and leader writer on health policy issues in early December.
Mr Brock confirmed that contracts had been signed by both The Times and Mr Pollard.
This now paves the way for a sizeable pay-off to Mr Pollard.
Mr Pollard was not available for comment, but he will be distraught at the news.
In yesterday’s newspaper reports he claimed the acrostic was a coincidence.
At the time of leaving the Express he told MediaGuardian that Mr Desmond and his henchmen treated his readers like “imbeciles who want to live on a diet of pap”.