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Editor hits back in custard eggs-clusive row

A weekly newspaper editor has defended his decision to run a story about a mum-of-three who complained about the local shops being out of custard.

The Whitstable Times devoted most of page four to a tale about keen cook Jules Serkin who ran out of custard powder while making an apple and blackcurrant crumble.

It led to a barrage of comments on the paper’s website citing the story as evidence of declining standards of local journalism and calling for the reporter who wrote it to be sacked.

But editor John Nurden hit back claiming the level of reader response to the story more than justified the decision to run it.

The saga began after Ms Serkin’s trawl of local convenience stores to find a replacement tin of custard powder proved fruitless.

She contacted the paper to complain and it ran the story under the headline: ” Whitstable mum in custard shortage”.

One reader calling himself Nik from Newcastle commented: “How on earth did this terrible story make it to the morning news conference, let alone to print? As a fellow hack, I am shocked, appalled and rather ashamed at this dire example of journalism.”

Another, Simon from London, added: “The journalist who wrote this and the news editor who allowed it should be sacked. You’re taking the mick out of your readers.”

But in a tongue-in-cheek reply on the website, John Nurden said the number of comments showed the paper was right to run the story.

“So everyone is dis-custard with our story about custard rage? I sense fellow hacks are just jealous of our eggs-clusive,” he wrote.

“If it was our splash I would agree but I think it made a nice page four funny – and has attracted more comments than any other on our web site proving that custard shortages should be top of everyone’s news menu.”

Read the Times’ original story here.


neil mac (30/03/2009 11:24:16)
I don’t know why people are getting so worked up about this. Sure, it is over-written, but stories in weeklies almost always are. Like your man says, it’s a decent knock-about tale. What’s the harm? I’d rather read this than a council press release which has been cut, pasted and printed verbatim. More power to The Whitstable Times! Start a campaign to get our custard back I say.

sheila (30/03/2009 11:29:39)
I hope they’re planning a follow up to explain how the crumble went down

Sporting Life (30/03/2009 14:27:06)
The reaction to this story of the other hacks just shows how the humour has been dragged out of our industry… It’s a laugh for goodness sake and John Nurden was absolutely right to publish it. And his response to the criticism is even better!

Far Lane (30/03/2009 14:56:56)
I agree with Neil Mac. There are far worse stories in local papers running under the so called lable of news. This isn’t a hard-hitting splash we’re talking about, it’s a page four funny story of far more interest than the local council has given another £10,000 to plant a few more flowers.

Starstruck (30/03/2009 15:07:47)
What concerns me is the obvious lack of culinary standards. The shops did not run out of custard – they ran out of “instant” custard powder. No-one runs out of custard. You make it. With ingredients.
I hope the paper ran a recipe with the piece.

Captain Starlight (30/03/2009 15:38:15)
This story is too close to April 1st. Has the world gone mad? If I lived in Whitstable I could tell the paper that sometimes my bus is late, my shoelaces snap more often than they used to, my hovercraft is full of eels etc etc – and I’ve just heard the first cuckoo.

Sam Tana (30/03/2009 17:53:58)
Actually, the original story (which I haven’t read) seems to be about the lack of custard *powder* – presumably replaced by cartons of ready-made custard. This is an important sociological milestone! Not only can few people be bothered to make custard from scratch – “from ingredients” – they can’t even be bothered to make it from powder.
Perhaps it should have been the splash after all…

Stephen Pullinger (31/03/2009 08:09:22)
I’m proud to say the Whitstable Times was my first paper back in 1984, but I recall it was not always the newsiest of towns – we sometimes struggled a lot more than this to fill the paper.

Starstruck (31/03/2009 10:05:43)
Capt Starlight – tell me more about the those shoestring snapping incidents. You’ve got me interested now.

Captain Starlight (31/03/2009 14:59:42)
Perhaps I was too flippant to comment on deficient journalism in Whitstable. This paper lets us all down and holds journalism up to ridicule.I was in the business for over 40 years and if this sort had tale had been filed the culprit and editor would have been cast out to the darker regions of s secure unit for the barmy. Now did I ever tell anyone about the four par story I saw on the front of an Isle of Wight paper years ago about a six ft long plank being stolen from a building site? Two years ago there was the famous lengthy story in a northern paper about an office chair been seen on fire on a street.

Twiki (01/04/2009 10:22:17)
Is it true that a thief made off with all of the powder – but is now being held by police in custardy

Mr Kipling (01/04/2009 10:28:44)
Well I think this is an exceedingly good story.

Victoria Sponge (01/04/2009 16:54:56)
This is no trifling matter. What if people can’t get what they want from these shops, they could dessert the town. What will happen to the turnover of these businesses then?

Aeron (07/04/2009 19:04:57)
@ Sporting Life – the comments made by hacks on the Times’s website clearly show journalists haven’t lost their sense of humour. The story, however, was about as funny as the eggs-cruciating egg prefixes so overused by subs at Easter (please stop). As a former editor of a local rag I can truthfully say I never had to resort to publishing stories about someone’s shopping dilemmas. One (clearly investigative) reporter commented on the site that the shopper actually runs a PR company in Whitstable and even has a pic of her with said editor on her website. Last time I looked, the comment had been removed. Now that’s what I call press censorship. And while on the topic of PRs, having turned to the dark side myself, Neil Mac, I can assure you my press releases are often best published verbatim, as they often are. Lose the attitude son.

Aeron (07/04/2009 19:23:14)
I meant to add, not all PRs have fluffy tails (or should that be tales?)