The Sun is asking readers today to name the parasailing donkey it has rescued from a Russian beach. I think it should be named Blackie in honour of one of Fleet Street's great capers, in which the Sun rescued a Spanish donkey only to have it pinched by the Daily Star. Up to Speed Media remembers: "It all started one Pancake Day in a sleepy Spanish village called Villanueva de la Vera. The year was 1987 and the hero of the story was a little donkey called El Negro. El Negro was picked by the villagers to be the star of an ancient Shrovetide festival. The bad news for El Negro was that the role involved being ritually beaten, abused and dragged through the streets and tormented in an alcohol-fuelled fiesta. "It didn’t look good for the little donkey, but then help arrived from the unlikely direction of London. Fleet Street reacted swiftly. With the stroke of a pen, the unfortunate ass was re-christened Blackie and the leader writers worked their cojones off, goading the great British public into a froth of righteous indignation. "Meanwhile, two rival desperadoes called Whittow and Mackay, were dispatched by the Sun and the Star. The race was on. Fleet Street was hell-bent on vengeance, mercy and a piece of the ass. The Spanish villagers didn’t know what was about to hit them. Whittow of the Sun arrived first. Clutching a fistful of pesetas, he bought young Blackie for the equivalent of £250. Back in London, Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie sensed victory. "Whittow filed his story and then, baulking at the thought of bedding down with his burrito, the intrepid Sun reporter paid a farmer a sackful of pesetas to turn the young donkey out to grass in one of his fields. It was an error of judgement Hugh Whittow would live to regret. "For, hot on his heels, was Don Mackay. And Mackay, a gringo from the Daily Star, meant business. Dawn broke with a rustle of bank notes, and before Whittow could say, “full English breakfast”, Mackay and Blackie had made a break for Blighty and the border and Kelvin was choking on his corn flakes. "The Daily Star headline, read GOTCHA! and the front page showed a picture of Blackie and the receipt they had been given by a Spanish farmer who can scarcely have believed his luck."
I am a freelance journalist based in the UK and was deputy editor of Press Gazette, the journalists' magazine, from 1993 until 2006. I want to give an independent view on media matters.
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