Dear columnist, I hate you

Journalists are easily reached by e-mail. But is it just an excuse for abuse?

THERE ARE already approximately 10 million Britons with access to the Internet and you could be forgiven for thinking that most of them are journalists, given the ubiquity of the e-mail addresses that have sprung up around newspaper columns. The Sun's Deidre Sanders (of "Dear Deidre" fame) has, like most agony aunts now, an e-mail address at the bottom of her column. Della Pickles, one of Deidre's counselling team, says the office receives more than 100 e-mails a week, and it shows no sign of decreasing.

THERE ARE already approximately 10 million Britons with access to the Internet and you could be forgiven for thinking that most of them are journalists, given the ubiquity of the e-mail addresses that have sprung up around newspaper columns. The Sun's Deidre Sanders (of "Dear Deidre" fame) has, like most agony aunts now, an e-mail address at the bottom of her column. Della Pickles, one of Deidre's counselling team, says the office receives more than 100 e-mails a week, and it shows no sign of decreasing.

"We do get some quirky ones," Della admits. "Certainly most of them are of a risqué nature, it's a different catchment area." Della explains: "You have no pointers as to whether it's genuine or not. We've had some where we have had to say 'this is just not true' due to the total implausibility of it."

But what kind of person would spend time writing hoax e-mails to "Dear Deidre"? It all sounds rather infantile. Predictably, penis size is a favourite subject for e-mailers.

"Yes," Della sighs, "we do get a big spurt in hoax e-mails after the examinations have finished in the summer, say from schoolchildren trying to set up the history teacher."

Gossip columnists, like advice columnists, have become e-mail devotees in the hope of receiving celebrity tip-offs and tit bits. However, the reality is somewhat different. "I get a fair few abusive e-mails," says Dominic Mohan, of The Sun's "Bizarre" column. "Most recently, I was congratulated on winning the Stars in Their Eyes final - someone thinks I look like Chris De Burgh! Someone else told me to get my hair cut because I looked like Liam Gallagher after a heavy night on the town."

Celebrity lookalike Dominic is not alone in being abused. The Mirror's Matthew Wright says he receives all sorts of e-mails from all sorts of people. "The vast majority are horribly derogatory, so those would be from my mother, my wife and my work colleagues," Matthew jokes. His favourite piece of recent e-mail is a joke from a reader that I shall reproduce in full: "This dyslexic man walks into a bra..."

You might expect broadsheet readers to be a trifle more serious. Eleanor Mills of The Sunday Times is a hearty exponent of e-mail contact with her readers. "It makes you realise how international the paper's readership is. Often you get quite entertaining exchanges." Although not as entertaining as Deidre's team, I suspect. Does she get any strange e-mails? Are there any cyber nutters out there? "No, that's mostly the letters, although I did call Jean Michel Jarre's music execrable once (in an interview with his British wife Charlotte Rampling) and I got an absolute volley of correspondence from the Jean Michel Jarre fan club in Holland."

Most of her correspondence is polite and supportive, though. It is usually men that e-mail her - it seems men are big on technology - and she says she receives e-mail from a wide cross section of society. "One guy who e-mailed me drove a taxi," she adds, mysteriously. "I think journalists should be called to account for what they write - the more you can reach out and touch the readers the better."

Phil Hogan who writes in The Observer is less altruistic about his reasons for having an e-mail address. "I thought I'd try to flush out some fan mail," he jokes, although it seems to have backfired somewhat.

Readers write in to complain about the grammar and structure of Hogan's column. "They say when they were at school they were taught that a sentence shouldn't be more than 25 words. I had an e-mail from one woman who asked 'why do you think people are interested in what you do with your family every weekend?'... if I get any negative ones I do write back and pretend to be really charming to teach them the error of their ways."

Someone who is never short of either lunch invitations or e-mails is Michael Winner who writes in the News of the World and The Sunday Times , and can receive more than 100 e-mails a week. "I get lots from women who want to go out with me," he claims. "Women who read The Sunday Times write: 'I desperately want to date Michael Winner. I only chose my last boyfriend because he looked like Michael Winner'."

It's the same story at the NoW. "The idea that the News of the World is read by illiterate navvies is just not true," says Winner. Around 60 per cent of his e-mail is from female admirers though, perhaps fortunately for these curious women, he does not reply to any of his e-mails personally. Winner says that the rudest e-mails he receives are from Conservative Party supporters. "Some of them are really very threatening because, you know, I support Mr Blair now," he says. "They threaten bodily violence, they're just lunatics. But I don't like e-mail it's very impersonal." Perhaps, in his case, with the number of threats, that's a lucky thing.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Life and Style
The spring/summer 2015 Louis Vuitton show for Paris Fashion Week
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SEO Executive

£24 - 28k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical SEO Executive to join one ...

Research Analyst / Insight Analyst

£25k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Research Analyst / Insight Analyst to joi...

RTB/ Programmatic Campaign Manager

35,000 - 50,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: Our client is the world's largest...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?