IT WAS the sheer improbability of Hollywood bad boy Kevin Federline wanting to talk to the Salford Advertiser that caused experienced hack Ailsa Cranna to smell a rat.
Her instincts - honed after 30 years at the cutting edge of local journalism - didn't fail as she spotted a hoax prank from Galaxy FM presenter Wes Butters and co-presenter Polly Garside.
“I know the Advertiser has a loyal following in Salford but I was instantly suspicious that Kevin Federline had even heard of it, never mind wanted to sell a four hour tape of life in the marital home with estranged wife Britney Spears,” she said.
Twenty-seven-year-old presenter Wes, who went to Halton Bank Primary School, Buile Hill High and Salford University, hit upon the joke of phoning local and national papers in the wake of Kevin Federline allegedly threatening to sell a risky DVD of his family affairs for millions of dollars.
Wes decided to ring papers posing as Britney’s husband, offering to cut that figure down to £20 million for a quick sale.
Predictably, several national papers appeared to be very keen. More bizarrely, so did several local papers - such as the Falmouth Packet, in Cornwall, whose male reporter became increasingly stressed on Wes' Wednesday morning show when confronted with ‘Kevin’ demanding cash.
Only when they came to the Salford Advertiser did they come up against a wall of complete indifference.
Wes, who now lives in Worsley said: “Right from the start we knew the Advertiser had spotted the joke and was taking no prisoners. It was a very funny interview because the reporter was very sharp and refused to be roped in.”
Ailsa, aged 53, added: “That is very kind of Galaxy to compliment me but in reality I suspected something was up for two basic reasons.
“Firstly, my musical education ended with Russ Conway and ‘Side Saddle’ and secondly, because the chances of the Advertiser having a £20 million slush fund were as likely as me fitting into a size 10 by Christmas.”