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Alan Franklin's personal opinion

The Star has just appeared on network television across America! Keith Miller, London correspondent for NBC Nightly News, came to town with a TV crew to interview me in the Star office, talk to one of our readers and feature various shots of Aldershot.

The result was a "famous for fifteen seconds" slot just after Tony Blair on the main US news bulletin of the day, similar to News At Ten.

The reason for the visit, I can confess, had less to do with my magnetic personality than the fact that Aldershot is known as the home of the British Army. The US media team wanted some reactions to the forthcoming war with Iraq.

I told them that I watched in 1982 when the Paratroopers marched proudly out to re-take The Falklands, as bands played and crowds cheered. Then, when a small country was invaded 12 years ago, most local people backed our efforts to free the Kuwaitis.

However, I said that I and many other people could see no justification for the coming war, which seems set to happen regardless of whether or not anything much is found by UN inspectors.

I said that the British Army would perform well, as ever, and we backed them. Local families have already waved goodbye to their sons. But that doesn't mean that most of us are convinced that there is any logic behind this war.

After all, I said in my interview, there are not many democracies in the Arab world and little reason to think that whoever replaces Saddam would be much of an improvement. The oil will be sold to the west, whoever takes over. As for morality, it was mainly the west which armed Iraq in the days when Saddam was our hero for fighting the "evil state" of Iran.

I also said the main media organisations were not asking enough tough questions, like "why?" "why?" and "why?"; that neither Britain nor the US could afford a war and that nobody seriously believed Iraq was a threat to the west.

That day we received our first letter about the war, from a teacher called Chris Iles-Wright, which I published under the heading "Bombs Away?" Mr. Iles-Wright was also interviewed on the programme, which went out from London at 11.30 pm, when the NBC news features on the CNBC business channel, as well as its across-America screening at 6:30pm New York time.

Having established myself as a seeming pinko-peacenik (which I am most certainly not!), I thought that was probably the end of my media career in the States.

However, it got a good reaction. Many Americans are also puzzled at the odd course of events and oppose the war. Then this week I got an invitation to make a TV programme in Dallas this summer, so perhaps I haven't blown it.

Public relations is a black art I have criticised in the past. However, I have just received what is possibly the worst press release of my career, and that is saying something.

It happens to be from the biggest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart, currently trying to take over Safeway. It came from their local offshoot, ASDA in Farnborough, and I will draw a veil over the identity of the guilty party who wrote it. I do have some mercy.

Here is the release, although I don't think it was released - it escaped: "Janueary (sic) 2003…….Today ASDA Farnborouhg (sic) is calling on all paernts (sic) to stop off at the customer service desk and pick up a leaflet for the latest Tommy's parents (sic) friendly awards.

"Shoppers will be asked to name which stores pampers (sic) and care for the kids the best, in a variety of categories. Tommy's, the baby charity, will be rewarding those companies that come out on top.

"The leaflets are available untill (sic) 9 Feb and parents are being asked to vote in twenty-four categories ... for mums, dads and littel (sic) ones. Every voting form recevied (sic) will be entered into a prize draw with two lucky winners receving (sic) a year's supply of nappies."

Simon Anders the store manager, was quoted "asking shoppres (sic) to come and vote at ASDA." So, if you are a shoppre with a littel one, you know what to do. For my part, I gave up hope of "receving" literate press releases many years ago, after grammar ceased to be taught to "kidz" in "skools." I must stop - my computer is running out of red ink for underlining errors…..


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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