Letter from the editor: Facing the public

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The Independent Online

There are dangers associated with meeting your public. Just ask Nick Clegg or Gordon Brown: there’s a Mrs Duffy waiting everywhere to handbag you.

Newspaper editors are traditionally shy, reticent characters so, for us, getting out and about has its perils. The first is that many people have absolutely no compunction about telling you, to your face, exactly what they think of you, rather as if they were simply swearing at the telly.

I recall someone accosting me at a party to complain about the number of headlines that began with a gerund. I listened patiently before, I’m afraid, snapping. I asked him where he worked and said that I would visit him and tell him just how rubbish he was at his job, given that this was effectively what he’d just done to me.

Another danger is not being able to remember someone you’ve met before. As I get older, I find this happening more and more, to the point where it has become something of a phobia. I take solace in the famous story of the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, who, on encountering a woman he couldn’t quite place, began asking her questions to establish exactly who she was. This exercise came to its climax when he asked her: “And your husband, is he still in the same line of work?” “Yes,” she replied, “he’s still King.”

A former editor of The Sun took a hard line against readers who complained. He’d ring them up and tell them they were banned from reading the paper! Here at i, we like to think we’re better than that, and we also have a much higher opinion of you. As I write this, we’re all getting ready to face our public at a party for i readers at the Serpentine Gallery. Assuming I get out alive, I’ll report back tomorrow. Party on!