As delegates chose their seats for a full day at the Society of Editors, I just couldn’t resist plonking myself next to Northcliffe’s south-east bigwig Alan Geere.
And sure enough, the zany, energetic Geere was soon trying to find anything except what was happening on stage to keep our table entertained.
I’ve already mentioned Juanita Brock, the American-sounding owner and operator of the Falkland Island News Network, for her intrepid journey to attend the conference.
Well Geere was fascinated to the verge of obsession with her presence.
“That is a magnificent cardigan she’s wearing,” he mused aloud, and it truly was one of those chunky, full-bodied, ribbed knits that you might be able to remember your granny wearing.
“Do you think it’s made from Falkland sheep wool?” Geere added, as neighbours John Meehan (Hull Daily Mail) and David Bourn (Scottish Provincial Press) tried not to spit their tea out in mirth.
Fair play to Brock, she was a busy woman: at my last count six questions from the floor to various speakers, all specifically related to idiosyncratic Falkland Islands media and legal issues.
Plus she took pictures of every session, including individual shots of all NCTJ award-winners towards the end of the afternoon.
“I bet the Islanders are waiting on the edge of their seats for this coverage,” quipped Geere.
There was only one other delegate who came anywhere near competing with Juanita with her obscure questions, and that was the formidable Irina Demchenko of the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
A memorable one came after Hartlepool Mail editor Joy Yates publicly ribbed Teesside Evening Gazette editor Darren Thwaites for the number of journalists he had poached in recent years.
Demchenko, who I don’t think understood Yates’ tongue-in-cheek comments, asked: “Er, you two are neighbours competing, no? Why you not agree to ban stealing each others’ journalists? We had that problem in Russia and stopped it. You could do the same.”
But I do wish Demchenko and Brock had quizzed respected media consultant Jim Chisholm, as we reserved Brit delegates were just far too polite to question his complex ‘audience’ graphs that looked to me like the kind of doodles scrawled at board meetings.
“Jim’s a decent bloke,” whispered one editor, “but I have no idea what all that meant.”
At least we all knew what outgoing Aberdeen Press & Journal editor Derek Tucker meant when he gave what he described as “my two penn’orth from what some consider to be those of us remaining in the Jurassic period”.
In summary: the Press & Journal’s comparative success is built on solid, old-fashioned coverage of courts, council and local issues, in eight geographical editions a day, which means changing 100 broadsheet pages every night.
Cue all round nods from impressed editors.
Oh, and carefully restricting the timing and amount of news uploaded to the internet, decidedly not giving away for nothing what good readers are prepared to pay for.
Cue sharp intakes of breath from the majority audience of web-integrated editors, with many dismissive chunterings over coffee and at the urinal wall afterwards.
Tell you what though, after a day of probing experts on the subject, no-one was any nearer to how regionals can seriously monetise the web, while the Press & Journal’s circulation figures continue to shine.
Check back here tomorrow morning for gossip from tonight’s Gala Dinner.