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Matt Trueman: Baz Bamigboye’s envious critics overlook hard journalistic graft

Baz Bamigboye Baz Bamigboye
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Some, it seems, have a Baz Bamigboye in their bonnet. Every Thursday night, regular as clockwork, the Daily Mail’s longstanding entertainment reporter will drop the week’s big showbiz scoops in his double-page spread. Recently, there have been renewed calls for the theatre industry – PRs and producers alike – to take its announcements elsewhere.

My colleague Mark Shenton regularly tweets his dissatisfaction at what he deems preferential treatment, while blogger Carl Woodward recently called for a boycott of Bamigboye’s column.

Shenton argues that gifting Baz exclusives unfairly advantages the Mail, when theatres – especially subsidised theatres – owe equal treatment to all outlets. It’s specious: theatres owe journos diddly-squat (as we do them). Woodward expands on that: doing so props up what many regard as a derogatory newspaper.

Whatever one’s views of the Mail – and I’m no apologist – both do Bamigboye a disservice. To suggest, as Woodward does, that he has all his “scoops handed over” by obliging press reps is not just naive, but positively insulting.

The idea that Bamigboye spends his days sitting around waiting for juicy exclusives to land in his lap is, frankly, ludicrous. It does happen, of course, but that’s a product of the platform he’s built up over many years.

More often, though, Bamigboye really is one step ahead. Plenty of PRs have learned their own casting news from his phone calls, rather than their producers. If they announce after he’s gone to print, it’s often because he’s forced their hand. That’s good journalism.

When I worked at an actors’ agency back in the day, Baz was a regular caller. Could I confirm this or that? We were told, rule of thumb, to give him whatsoever he needed. Every agent knows that securing a spot on  his spread is worth its weight in gold. He came to us far more than we went to him.

Anyone in doubt as to the lengths Bamigboye will go to for the sake of a story should read Michael Riedel’s Razzle Dazzle. In it, Elaine Paige recalls the choreographer Michael Bennett’s controversial departure from Chess. She was skiing in Courchevel at the time – and who should come plodding up the mountain for a comment? Yep: Baz.

Bamigboye’s column remains an invaluable resource: a major media platform that puts theatre on a par with television and film. He’s long been an almighty champion of new talent. Go back to 2010, and he was tipping a young Daniel Kaluuya for the top; two years earlier, a 24-year-old radio actor called Felicity Jones.

People speak as if he has a monopoly on showbiz news. If he does, it’s one of his own making – and, lest anyone forget, he’s achieved all this over 30 years in an industry that’s still predominately white.

That’s not to say it has to be this way. The fact is no one really competes for the same stories. His info is out there for the scooping, should any tyro hack wish to chase it down. Bamigboye would likely welcome the rivalry.

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