24 OCTOBER 1958, Page 6

THE GOSSIP COLUMNS in the popular papers today read like

some endless serial in a woman's maga- zine. Inset with huge pictures, burdened by im- mense headlines, their prose throbs continually on the verge of some scandalous revelation which is never precisely described. The circulation experts report that these columns are the most popular sections of the newspapers today and the editors have reacted to the information by letting their gossips get almost completely out of hand. Once the press was accused of seeking power without responsibility, now they seem to prefer irresponsi- bility without power. And the gossip columnists are now to journalism what the League of Empire Loyalists is to politics. But at least the Empire Loyalists get inside—even if they have to be disguised as bearded bishops from the Balkans. The odd thing about the columnists, who bast between the lines about their intimacy with the socially notorious, is that they seem to be so seldom on the guest list. The most they can do is eavesdrop on the good-nights in the hall, or arguments about the route in the motor-car. And when they get a personal exclusive one-sentence interview with the maid it is blown up to scoop proportions. I find it hard to believe that anybody cares. But if they do, surely the gossip columnists should either become as ingenious in their subter- fuges as the Empire Loyalists or the papers should employ some of the out-of-work socialites who can get beyond the butler. At the moment, despite the headlines and the pictures, all the sensation- starved reader usually gets is a sort of beggar's-eye view from the pavement or the car park.