i Editor's Letter: Know when to say sorry


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The Independent Online


Some readers have scolded me for using the phrase "gold-plated" public-sector pensions. And, you know what? You were right. So, Joy Vann, Mike Godden, Martyn Pearce, Verity Smart, James Peak and co: I am sorry. It is a small minority of public servants that have such pensions. It was lazy.

There, I said it. Clearly, it's easier for us lily-livered plebeian media types to apologise than it is for public-school Thrashers. Yes, of course, Andrew Mitchell should just come clean, and put the whole "sorry" affair behind him. And, if he had just admitted what he said and been fulsomely apologetic, he would not still be in the headlines a week later.

That said, sometimes you can apologise too fast, too fulsomely. Witness the BBC's OTT grovelling to the Queen for the Frank Gardner slip (Archie Bland, p14). If anything, Gardner should apologise to her for revealing a source.

Some people find saying sorry difficult; others bandy around apologies with impunity, but seldom integrity. Many journalists come from the “never complain, never explain” school – as epitomised by pre-hacking News International. Not me.

At the weekend, jokingly, I told off my daughter and some teammates for constantly apologising for mistakes during their match. I know, I know – touchline parents, who needs 'em? But survival in many walks of life, from politics to journalism to sport, depends in part on learning when to press on regardless and when to stop and admit you were wrong. If only our children could see more adults getting that judgement call right, more often.