Kristen Stewart, star of the Twilight films, is not a great poet. But has she written the worst poem of all time, as a headline on The Independent’s website cheekily suggested?
Tweaking the noses of pompous celebs can be entirely reasonable. It can also result in terrifically funny journalism.
The poem appears in the March edition of Marie Claire, with Stewart expressing delight at how marvellous it is in an interview. It was that self-satisfaction which most obviously raised eyebrows.
Nevertheless, should the media – as one reader suggested – be less hasty to criticise and more constructive when it does so? It is also not unreasonable to suppose that the media should take care not to convey the message that attempts at artistic creativity are, as a matter of course, to be met with rank dismissal.
Most people do not, however, have their naff poems published in global magazines. Ultimately, a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the story, alongside an overtly hyperbolic conclusion about the verse’s place in the canon, is not a breach of journalistic ethics.
In any case, “K-Stew” can rest safe in the knowledge that I have written at least three poems that could easily pinch her “world’s worst” crown.
Details on killer’s family justified
Following the conviction last week of serial killer Joanna Dennehy’s two accomplices, many newspapers re-examined the background to the case.
The fact that Dennehy has children is not strictly important, although from a human interest point of view it is worthy of note. Yet two readers questioned whether The Independent was right to name the children’s father and identify the town in which they now live.
The Press Complaints Commission Code on this subject is clear. We are required not to identify innocent relatives of criminals unless they are directly relevant to the story.
However, the position is different in this case because the father has spoken openly about his relationship with Dennehy and her children. The existence of extensive information in the public domain overrides the usual rule since its purpose – to protect those who seek to retain their privacy – has been stymied by the decision of the father to talk to the media.
There remains an argument that we should have omitted reference to the town in which the family resides. But what readers of The Independent will not know is just how much information about the children and their father is available but which the paper decided not to use.
League tables for newspapers
The PCC has published a “league table” of offending newspapers, based on the number of times each title breached its Code of Practice in the last three years.
The Daily Mail/Mail Online tops the list, The Independent came in sixth, with nine recorded breaches, just behind the Evening Standard and The Guardian, with 10 each.
These details don’t tell us a great deal without more context. And it is perhaps no surprise that newspapers tend to grumble about the accuracy of this sort of league table. Yet statistics about myriad other subjects provide the media with oodles of stories – and in those cases too, there is no guarantee that, on their own, they give a full picture of the situation. When papers are on the receiving end, we simply have to suck it up; and redouble our efforts to ensure our use of stats is as rounded as possible.
Will Gore is Deputy Managing Editor of The Independent, i, Independent on Sunday and the Evening Standard