i: Letter from the editor 12 January 2011

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The Independent Online

Fine people, Mancunians. Honest, hardworking, humorous and honourable. And Manchester itself is one of Europe’s great cities: home of the Hallé Orchestra, cradle of the Industrial Revolution, birthplace of Oasis and the city where football’s Premier League trophy will reside after May (but maybe not where you think).

OK, I admit I may be biased about the city of my birth, but its inhabitants are nothing if not forthright. Speak as you find, I was told when growing up there, and so, it seems, was Barry Challinor, who writes from Manchester to complain about our coverage of David Beckham. (Ironic, really, given how much of a role Beckham played in the life of Manchester in his heyday.) “Is it possible to have at least one day a week without a mention of David Beckham?” asks Mr Challinor. He has a point, of course, and indiscriminate coverage of celebrities is something we know exercises many of our readers. In our defence, Beckham’s return to English football is certainly newsworthy, and the fact that he’s going to become a father for the fourth time is not without interest. And there is the fact, too, that the Beckhams are uber-celebrities, royalty almost.

Not so the Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding. She announced her engagement last week, and we brightened up our news pages with a picture of the happy couple. This prompted a heated discussion in conference the next day. The features editor – another plain speaker, although, sadly, not a Mancunian - was adamant that it had no place in i. No one cares a hoot about Sarah Harding, she said – I think she may have used a slightly cruder phrase, but we’ll let it pass – and this prompted a debate about who is above and below the salt as far as celebrity coverage is concerned. Kylie Minogue, in. Peter Andre, out. Jude Law, in. Kerry Katona, out. And so on. Easy. There is clearly a line that separates a Coleen Rooney from a Colin Firth, but everyone has a slightly different opinion on where to draw that line. Even readers who say they’re not interested in celebrity tittle-tattle secretly want to know what’s going on. The houses, the yachts, the cars, the holidays, the private planes. And that’s just the bankers!

Simon Kelner

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