Online chat with Piers Morgan
This is an edited transcript of our live online chat with Piers Morgan. Previously (and notoriously) Editor of the Daily Mirror and News of the World, this year saw Piers launch First News, a weekly newspaper aimed at 7-14 year olds.
JoolsTOOOOOOOoooooooooo: Loved your performance on Question Time, you certainly gave Jack Straw what for, could you have a go at Patricia Hewitt as well please? Ever thought of becoming a politician yourself? We could do with someone as forthright and as passionate as your good self.
Piers: I'd love to have a go at Patricia Hewitt, isn't she just the epitome of New Labour evil? I'd never be a politician, I've got far too many skeletons to hide.
Roisin: Just wanted to say how much my boys (7 and 9) continue to enjoy First News. We'd been wanting such a product for ages, so (having seen the team behind it) subscribed before the first publication... and 5 months on my boys STILL fight over who gets to read it first. I know a lot of children's newspapers have failed spectactularly in the recent past. How successful has the paper been so far? And why have you not yet advertised through Mumsnet... or offered a discount?
Piers: Glad your boys like First News. It is aimed at 7-14 year olds, but all three of my sons - Spencer, 13, Stanley, 9 and Bertie, 5 - love it. I think there is something in it for everyone. Other children's newspapers failed because they were too serious, worthy, and patronising to kids. We are a lively fun tabloid format paper that has the tone of Newsround, but is a bit more entertaining. We aim to inform, educate, fascinate and amuse. Which is, I think, why kids, parents and teachers ALL think we're 'cool.' We're giving away a special mumsnet.com discount of 15% off a six month subscription to First News - the best offer out there. To take advantage, you need to quote MUMSNET when ordering either online or on the web. The cost is £22.10 (normal price £26).
The subs hotline is 0870 4288222. We also have a website, updated all the time: Www.firstnews.co.uk
SofiaAmes: You have just appeared on America's Got Talent where you made a fairly high percentage of the contestants, many of whom were children, cry because of your (in my opinion) cruel comments. At the time you excused your behavior by saying that you were just being honest. Is your new newspaper going to embody this same tough love, tell it like it is approach?
Piers: Americans cry a lot, I'm afraid. It's not my fault. But I certainly believe in being honest with kids, and giving them a bit of 'tough love' as you put it. The likes of Winston Churchill, Ian Botham and Richard Branson didn't get where they did by being told they were wonderful every day. I praise my boys when they do well, and encourage them when they don't. But I get angry if I know they haven't tried their best.
ScreamandYellowFeathers: I'd like to know if the paper plans to take on a similar look or tone to these celeb magazines? More and more young children seem to be reading them and, after watching a programme the other day about anorexia, it seems that (the image portrayed by) a lot of the celebrities featured in these magazines is partly to blame. Would you agree with that?
Piers: Yes, celebrities have a lot of responsibility to children as role models. They get a lot of perks out of fame - cars, houses, freebies and so on. The least they can do is say sensible things. Graham Norton's 'drugs are wonderful' interview was a classic case in point. He was wrong to say it, and given his age rather pathetic too.
Fairyjay: I've got a paparazzi style shot of you on a beach in Barbados. For 100K it's yours - if not, it might find it's way on to this website. Topless, as well!
Piers: For god's sake sell those paparazzi photos of me on the Barbados beach quick - I need the publicity. Are they the ones of Jodie Kidd sticking her tongue down my throat?
Overrun: Do you regret any of the times you were not there for your children due to your job, given that ultimately your career didn't go as planned.
Piers: I do regret not seeing more of my kids as an editor. But since I was so cruelly fired, I've got to see a lot more of them. In fact, too much I suspect. My oldest said yesterday: 'Dad, can you go back to being an editor because I'm bored with having to fill your days for you.'
Willow2: Favourite Arsenal player of all time? Thoughts on Rosicky?
Piers: My favourite Arsenal player ever is Ian Wright, a natural goalscorer and a total nutcase. As for Rosicky, its early days but I like what I see. I think we'll win the Premiership this year, Chelsea's roubles are crumbling.
Yeahbat: Do you think you were "set-up" over the fake Iraq abuse photos?
Piers: I don't know if I was set up over those Iraq photos, but I do know that we still don't know who took them, what they depict, where they were taken, or anything. And since some British soldiers have now started admitting they abused Iraqi civilians, I think I am entitled to feel rather proud of what we exposed. My own brother has just returned from Iraq, and he thought we were right to expose the abuse because it had been going on, and real decent oldiers hate it.
Caffeinequeen: Of all the people you've met and interviewed, who did you like the most... and the least?
Piers: The person I most enjoyed meeting was Diana, what a laugh she was. Sexy, bright, funny and mischievous. And the least impressive was Cherie Blair, a poisonous back-stabbing, charmless little creature.
Batters: Can we have the truth about those shares, please? Don't worry you can trust us Mumsnetters, we have the morals of Fleet Street journalists, and wouldn't breath a word to anyone else...
Piers: Regarding the 'shares' scandal: I was cleared, three others were convicted.
You do the maths.
bctmum: Haven't seen the paper yet - but do children have the chance to write and edit it?
Piers: Yes. We actively involve kids right through the paper, from reporting to reviewing, to choosing stories for the front page. This is a paper written mainly by kids, for kids. Which is why, surprise surprise, kids like it.
ginmummy: Mr Morgan, we know what kind of undergarments Major, Cameron, Kennedy et al favour - could you tell us what are your preferred style of underpants? Boxers, jockeys, slips, y-fronts, thongs or commando?
Piers: I wear Calvin Klein boxers - is there anything else a real man could possibly wear?
saltire: Is there any story you regret printing when you were editor of the Mirror?
And why did you give print and paper space to that horrible Paul Burrell?
Piers: I wish we hadn't printed an exclusive that Paul McCartney and Heather Mills had had a baby under the headline 'IT'S A BOY!". Because the next day we discovered it was a girl. As for Paul Burrell, I believe every word he says about Diana and so should you. I saw them together many times, and he was the one she really trusted.
RTKangaMummy: How much is First News?
Piers: First News is £1, very good value for a weekly paper. Most kids' magazines cost over £2 these days.
HuwEdwards: What are your prime objectives (apart from making money) in producing a paper for this age group?
Piers:Not THE Huw Edwards? shouldn't you be preparing the news? Anyway, our prime objectives on First News are to get kids reading again. They spend far too much time looking at screens, playing video games and watching TV. We want them to spend at least some time once a week reading a paper that explains what's going on in Britain, and the word, in language they can understand.
niceglasses: Piers, tell us about Gordon (Brown). Feed my addiction. I worry about him, but so want him to succeed.
Piers: Gordon Brown takes politics seriously, and I like that. I've had enough of pop stars running the country and taking us into illegal wars. Gordon's very charming away from his job, too.
moaningpaper: As today IS World Mental Health Day, have you ever personally experienced mental ill health, and how did you manage/cope with it?
Piers: I saw Alastair Campbell talking about depression on TV this morning and laughed. Sexing up the Iraq war dossier left a lot of poor innocent people in Iraq pretty depressed too, Alastair.
Slug: What are you doing in your childrens' newspaper to dispell the myth (perpetrated by your adult publications) that the only way to happiness for a woman is through the approval of men? Are you going to regularly report on womens' sport for example? Or are you going to do what most newspapers in this country do and report mainly on football, with the occasional foray into female sport, (but only if they are winners and dress in really skimpy clothes)? Are you going to educate girls that they don't have to get their tits out for the lads or be anexoric clothes horses to be valuable members of society?
Piers: I totally agree that the media is complicit in encouraging girls to expose their breasts and starve themselves. We fully intend challenging issues like this in FN and making sure the next generation of girls think there is a better, healthier, more dignified route to happiness.
First News is an equal opportunities paper, right down the line. We have as many girls reading us as boys, and take that very seriously to ensure they get as much girl-related stories/issues as the boys.
Slug: What are these girls stories then? Ponies and lipstick? Define 'girl related issue' for me.
Piers: Try reading First News, then you might realise it is not the News of the World in disguise. 'Girl-related issues' mean just that. There are things like anorexic fashion role models which pertain to girls only, that we will highlight and criticise.
TwigTwolett: What made you turn from journalist to media c'leb and do you regret it?
Piers: What turned me from a journalist into a 'media c'leb' was getting fired. And when I sit in my trailer on the Paramount movie lot surrounded by my bodyguards waiting to film my No1 hit American tv show, I regret it every single minute...
Bundle: I really enjoyed your book, The Insider, though it was much more of a "dipping in" book (and chuckling on the tube) than a straight-through read. What kind of books do you enjoy reading and why?
Piers: I like reading biographies. I enjoy discovering what makes people tick. The best book I've read recently was Brian Keenan's 'An Evil Cradling' about life as a hostage in Beirut. You will never moan about your life again.
Bundle: One of the other former hostages, John McCarthy said that listening to programmes on the BBC World Service helped to keep him sane and alive when he was chained to a radiator. Who would you like to inspire you on the radio if you were similarly trapped?
Piers: I'd like to be trapped in a Beirut cell for five years with Scarlett Johanssen. That would make it all so much more bearable.
Enid: Do you think the market will now be overrun with 'tweenpapers'?
Piers: First News is the only proper kids paper out there, and we are very confident that it will grow and grow into a major publishing force in this country. Everyone who sees it loves it.
Zippitippitoes: Did Robert Maxwell commit suicide?
Piers: Maxwell fell over his boat after dinner because he was too fat to stay upright as he had a pee. It was a suitably disgusting end to a disgusting man.
Edam: Would you say you are a feminist?
Piers: I'm not a feminist, but I love women - until they get too feminist.
bakedpotatooooowoooh: Do you get a flicker of anxiety about bumping into people you've hacked off? There must be so many of them, all longing for your downfall.
Piers: I love meeting people I've hacked off, even when they punch me in the head like Jeremy Clarkson did. It makes the day more interesting.
Kaloo20: I'm doing a charity cycle through Vietnam in November, am I too old to be a First News reporter and report back for your paper? (I have already cut out my Press Card just in case.)
Piers: Yes, you can report for FN from Vietnam.
RTKangaMummy: Do your boys go to private school?
Piers: Yes. I can afford it, and I want them to have the best education I can get them. I went to a private school to 13, then a state school until I was 18, and I loved both.
Murdoch2: I've read your newspaper and think its fantastic and very informative to children. I have spare time on my hands when I drop my children to school and would love to sell it into the local schools and parents. You should offer some sort of sales schemes for mums, are you doing this? Every child should have access!
Piers: Great to hear you want to sell FN for us, and I think getting other mums out there doing the same is a great idea. We will let mumsnet know how this progresses.
CheesyFeetcomingtoGETyou: Does First News have any obvious political leaning?
Piers: FN is not a partisan political paper, we will give equal space to all parties and not take sides. We want kids to work it out for themselves.
Jessicaandrebeccasmummy: Am i the only mumsnetter who DOESN'T think you are good looking?! Serious question - Why are you on Mumsnet today? What is in it for you?
Piers: You DON"T fancy me? I think you need to see a doctor quickly. I'm on Mumsnet to plug First News and find six wives.
Greensleeves: In the light of your pithy appraisal of the Prime Minister's wife, what would be your response to someone who called you a muck-racking, gold-digging, morally destitute sleazy little guttersnipe?
Piers: I'd agree with every word. I like being all those things.
ScareyCaligulaCorday: So where d'you get this paper then? I've never seen it.
Piers: You can buy FN in most supermarkets and places like WH Smiths. But the best, easiest and cheapest way is to take out a subscription.
caffeinequeen: What's your favourite Abba track?
Piers: Money Money Money (of course..)
redbullbloodandbump:Will you do aricles on special needs to help educate children?
Piers: We have a policy of portraying children with difficulties in a positive way. It is essential that the next generation grow up with an understanding of needs of other children who may not be the same as them. It is an issue we have covered in the past and will continue to on an ongoing basis - not as a one off special, it's too important for that and something we will be visiting time and time again.
saltire: i haven't had a chance to read your new paper, but is it/does it take the opportunity to make children aware of healthy eating?
Piers: Healthy eating is a massive priority for First News. We are working with Jamie Oliver on his various projects and will constantly bang the healthy eating drum for kids, because it's right to do so whatever those imbeciles think as they shove crisps at their kids outside the school gates to 'make a point.'
fridascruffs: my boy's got a toy penguin called Piers. it swims in the bath and types faster than you.
Piers:I'd like to meet that penguin. When are you next having a bath?
Mercy: What makes a good father?
Piers:A good father needs infinite patience, boundless enthusiasm, kindness, the ability to score a goal, take a wicket, and hit a winning serve, and the strength to say 'NO' every now and again.
QueenEagle: My husband does not have endless enthusiasm or patience, is crap at any sport, especially so at those which involve "taking wickets", "scoring goals" and "hitting a winning serve". Please explain why you feel he is not a good father for not having these qualities?
Piers: I can't be bothered. Just leave him.
JustineMumsnet: Did you know that a famous parenting guru has threatened to close Mumsnet and is still planning to sue us for alleged libel because of some comments made about her on our discussion boards. Do you have a view on the freedom of speech versus private reputations issue (particularly on the internet) and/ or any advice?
Piers: Re your famous parenting guru throwing her toys out of the pram - I think free speech is everything. Keep taking her to task.
Greensleeves: I think you are labouring under the misapprehension that you are here to plug your children's paper, make a few prepared soppy remarks about fatherhood and generally fluff up your image by making small talk with friendly mummies. Oh dear, oh dear.
Piers: I'm only here because you asked me to be here. If you don't like it, go and paint your nails and stop seething.
SherlockLGJ: could you spot a mooncup at 40 paces or is it too "girl-related" for you ???
Piers: I love mooncups. What are your's like?
TwigTwoolett: Ian Hislop... You've gotta love him... haven't you?
Piers: Ian Hislop is an irritating, hypocritical, moon-faced midget with the weakest handshake in Britain. Other than that, he's a lovely man.
Kaloo20: I can't believe you had any idea what you were letting yourself in for this lunchtime.
Piers: I knew exactly what I was getting myself into with Mumsnet. Two million mums, bored at lunchtime, either wanting to give me a hard time or sleep with me. It's been most amusing.
That was most entertaining, particularly all the abuse. I've quite missed all that since I was a tabloid editor.
I hope you all go and try First News now, if you and your kids read it but don't like it then that's fine. But I promise you that they, and you, will.
Thanks for having me, and if Greensleeves wants my number please don't give it to her. I want to play hard to get.