THERE is no subject more guaranteed to pique the interest of the media than the media. Show us our navel and we’ll gaze right in, picking out the fluff and stray pennies as we go.

Doctor Foster writer Mike Bartlett was therefore guaranteed a big slice of attention for his new drama, Press, set in the fictional worlds of The Herald, a broadsheet, no relation, and The Post, a red top.

But would Press pass muster with those in the trade? More importantly, would it interest those viewers who left papers for the internet years ago? The short answers are no, not really, and maybe, if Bartlett turns the gas up on the drama and eases off on the pondering.

Press is about as true to real newspapers as the sex and revenge drama Doctor Foster was to the life of an average GP.

Among the Acorn Antiques-level bloopers were journalists who typed like YouTube cats, slapping away on their keyboards, unnaturally tidy kitchens, and staffing levels last seen in 1952. At one point an exasperated hack told a contact: “I’m one of only three investigative reporters left at my paper.”

That noise battering the window was a nation’s journalists guffawing as one. Three investigative reporters? Lucky you. Most glaringly of all, there was hardly any ******* swearing.

Bartlett didn’t show much imagination in the stories covered, which were the usual rag bag of Cabinet minister being caught out doing things they should not, MI5 skullduggery, etc, and he reached for the broad brush when it came to the characters: the cocky tabloid editor, the maverick reporter.

The show was saved by the quality of the cast, and the trail of appetising breadcrumbs Bartlett left behind after the first of six episodes. Ben Chaplin, last seen being a very naughty boy in Apple Tree Yard, is terrifically watchable as ego-on-legs editor Duncan Allen, while Charlotte Riley (Peaky Blinders) convinces as the dour deputy news editor who looks like she’s carrying the weight of the world in her backpack.

The possibility of these opposites attracting is promising. Paapa Essiedu is worth keeping an eye on as the office new start who is not too sure if he is in the right business. Then there is the not inconsiderable matter of Duncan’s tangled private life, which included a tall blonde turning up at his door in the middle of the night who did not look like she was there to deliver pizza or give his kitchen the once over with the Mr Muscle. Which, of course, would never happen. The turning up, that is, not the cleaning.

But drama requires a little oomph the way papers need stories, and if the formula worked for Bartlett in Doctor Foster it could do the same here.

Bring on the first blood on the walls dinner party.

After the BBC’s majestic Planet Earth and the Blue Planet, here is your guide to some of the inhabitants of Planet Press and their real-life counterparts in today’s newspaper jungle.


Fiction: Editor of The Herald is the cool, cerebral Amina Chaudhury (Priyanga Burford), while the Post is helmed by lad-about-town Duncan Allen (Ben Chaplin).

Fact: Editors are the silver-backed gorillas of newspapers, much given to beating chests and swinging through newsrooms looking for someone to pummel. There is rarely a female of the species. Will not work for peanuts but expect staff to do so. Often get together with other silverbacks to compare circulation size.


Fiction: The mysterious George Emmerson, given to having quiet chats with editors in the back of his limo, is played by David Suchet of Hercule Poirot fame.

Fact: The real kings of the jungle and the powers behind any newspaper throne. Over the years their ranks have included more than a few rogues who made Charles Foster Kane look like Charles Hawtrey. Today, newspapers are more likely to be owned by a multinational firm with shareholders rather than a sole proprietor. Far less fun, but safer for pensions.


Fiction: Going on his first “death knock”, calling at the door of the recently bereaved, is boy reporter Ed Washburn (Paapa Essiedu).

Fact: As in fiction, newcomers to the trade should be possessed of the requisite mix of charm and rat-like cunning. In reality, if working on a London paper, Ed would be an ex-public schoolboy whose uncle, the business editor, owns half of Wiltshire.


Fiction: Clark Kent lookalike Al Weaver is James Edwards, investigative reporter.

Fact: A rare and fast disappearing breed. Eccentric sorts who grew up with posters of All The President’s Men on their bedroom walls instead of Kylie in gold shorts, they are the true romantics of the profession, the keepers of the flame, and the only hope for humanity. More importantly, they have the filthiest gossip.


Fiction: The Post’s news ed is played by Shane Zaza and The Herald’s by Charlotte Riley.

Fact: News editors are the meerkats of the trade, much given to popping up from their desk every five seconds to find a reporter they can dragoon into carrying out the editor’s latest insane idea. Highly excitable. On no account feed after midnight or get wet. See Gremlins for handling instructions. Riley also typifies the kind of hard-working woman in newspapers who is twice as good as the men but paid half as much. Not that she is bitter about it. Goes to boxercise in evenings.


Fiction: So far in Press, viewers have only met Lucy (Laura Jane Mattewson), the long-suffering PA to Duncan Allen.

Fact: Outside of the proprietor, the editor’s secretary is the most powerful person in any newspaper and a real tigress. She, and it is always a she, knows where all the bodies are buried. More importantly, she is usually the only grown-up in the building, spending her days dabbing skint knees with Germolene, drying tears before bedtime and sorting toilet accidents.


The quietly heroic, working all hours production editor who last saw their family six years ago; the features editor, usually female but sometimes the odd metrosexual chap sneaks in, which comes in handy when there is mansplaining to be done; and the sports editor, possessor of a mind for stats and a six-pack like Winnie

The Pooh.