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Correspondent’s Week

This week by ex-Daily Mail personal finance reporter James Coney, now deputy business editor at the Daily Mirror.

They say that moving house is one of the most stressful times in your life. They do not know the half of it. Money Mail’s move from its old office to the corner of the newsroom was traumatic. For what seemed like days (but was only hours), the important work of righting the financial wrongs that readers have suffered was put on hold.

Even the bank charges’ campaign was placed on the back-burner for a while. Instead, we have been looking at floor plans, packing our stuff into boxes and wondering where to put the huge library of financial data accumulated over the years. Then there were the important issues to resolve. Where are we going to hang the holiday board? Would editor Tony Hazell get to keep his nice new teak desk? Where would we all sit?

When I was five, my parents moved house. My sister got first choice of room. Consequently, for more than a decade, I slept with a main road roaring outside my window. I was determined for this not to happen again. No such luck. I now sit right outside Tony’s office door. As a result, every conversation he has with any of the reporters or vice versa has to be relaid by me. I feel like that shopkeeper character from Little Britain.

“Tony, Tony.” Pause. “Tony.” Pause. “Yes.” “There’s a reporter here who wants to know if we have got any information on with-profits payouts in 1997.” “We’ve got with-profits payouts in 1996. Will that do?” “Tony says we’ve got with-profits payouts in 1996. Will that do?”

I don’t know why I am complaining. I have got just minutes left on the Money Mail section. On Monday, I start as deputy business editor at the Daily Mirror and Money Marketing’s Guy Anker will shortly take my seat at Money Mail.

Guy, here is the benefit of my experience. Obviously, there is all the normal nonsense about thinking of campaigns we can run, getting exclusive news stories and helping out readers but this is the important stuff:1: Get a list of all the financial products that Tony Hazell has. If any of these change rates or does anything dodgy, tell him. Then run.2: If Liz Phillips starts a conversation with you, don’t reply. You could be there for hours.3: When/if Justin Harper offers to take you out for lunch, say yes immediately.4: Under no circumstances ever get into a chat with Tony and deputy editor Charlotte Beugge about pop music.

By the time I leave, I will have worked a three-month notice period and endured interminable teasing. Make any kind of cheeky remark and you are met with the accusation of being “demob-happy”. Fail to come up with anything less than a front-page story and more allegations start to fly. “Oh, he’s probably keeping all his best ideas for the Mirror.” Get a mobile call and everyone whispers, “It must be his new boss.”

I really wish I could say that my last few days have seen work tailing off but no such luck. I even have to work Bank Holiday Monday. This week, credit card providers and with-profits companies have been getting the brunt of Money Mail’s wrath. It is funny how the criticism of the different sectors seems to ebb and flow. There is never one subject that is permanently getting a kicking. It is almost as if providers need a boot up the backside every now and again to remind them about developing competitive products and giving good customer service. It is a shame that it needs the muscle of the media to force them to do it. Then again, if it didn’t, we would all be out of a job.


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