Addresses aren’t a private matter, so why should we choose to hide one?

The Only Way Is Ethics: And why sledging Aussies certainly is cricket

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The Independent Online

For the most part, neither the law nor ethical codes of conduct confer greater privacy rights on public figures than ordinary mortals, but the playing field isn’t completely level. Children whose parents are famous require particular care and, when it comes to identifying where a person lives, extra protection is attached to celebrity. It is rare for this provision to extend beyond those whose fame is enough to attract an especially loyal/deranged type of fan. Addresses are not, after all, intrinsically private. Nevertheless, there can be some circumstances in which additional precautions are worthwhile.

The front-page story in Saturday’s Independent was about the suggestion that Greece might seek to recover money it paid to Goldman Sachs in connection with a range of complex financial deals in 2001 that some blame for the subsequent debt crisis. A particular banker who is said to have helped the Greek government paint a rosy picture of its finances prior to joining the eurozone also featured in our coverage. The individual has a home in London and consideration was initially given to including a photograph of it in our coverage.

However, the property is distinctive and the picture showed the street name in such a way that identification of its whereabouts seemed inevitable. Bearing in mind the sensitivities of the Greek situation at the moment, it could not be ignored that the banker – and by extension any family members living in the property – might, however unfairly, become a subject of protest. In all the circumstances, publishing the image felt like an unnecessary risk for little reward and so it was spiked.

Sledging Aussies certainly is cricket

Regular readers should, I hope, realise that some of our columnists occasionally write with tongue firmly in cheek. Mark Steel and Matthew Norman are two who frequently prick pomposity and earnestness on the part of others with their humour.

That they can do so with a tad more subtlety than a “knock-knock” joke sets them apart. And their reputations in this regard precede them. Or at least, I had always thought so. Complaints in the past week made me doubt.

First came Matthew’s column on the morning of the Ashes test; an amiable examination of our relationship with our Australian cousins, which ended with satirical best wishes to the Aussies “on the familiar grounds that, as a nation with neither history nor culture, she has no other way to attract the attention of a massively indifferent world than by winning at sport”.

Clearly enough a joke? Two readers disagreed, taking the piece at face value and concluding that it was offensive and racist against that lot  Down Under.

Then on Friday, Mark Steel, known for holding left-wing views and being a comedian, did a brilliant pastiche in the wake of the Budget, thanking George Osborne for going hard  on youngsters who: “In 2008, when they were under 14… spent the entire economy on sherbet and Pokémon cards – and then had the nerve to blame it  on the banks.”

Funny, right? Wrong, said one reader who expressed disbelief that Mark had “the nerve to blame young people for the 2008 recession that the bankers caused”. I’m not sure what is to be done about this outbreak of po-faced literalness. Maybe emojis are the answer – a “tongue in cheek” smiley at the top of any piece which has been written in jest. Or maybe after the writer’s Twitter handle we could add “#geddit?”.

Will Gore is Deputy Managing Editor of The Independent, i, Independent on Sunday and the Evening Standard Twitter: @willjgore

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