The best use for Twitter, defending the front page, Ant, Dec and sharing and a film for 2014

2013 was the year I found Twitter to be a useful resource for breaking news and a signpost to reading material I would otherwise have missed


This was the year of joined-up thinking, when we simultaneously tweeted, Instagrammed, Facebooked and Vined our every move. We were linked in and signed up, and despite the protestations from some that being in thrall to sharing meant oversharing, 2013 was the year I found Twitter, in particular, to be a useful resource for breaking news and a signpost to reading material I would otherwise have missed. (For those who follow me and discover I mostly tweet about food, apologies.)

But where it matters most, there is no joined-up thinking, no sharing of information. Time and again, we have read about cases of individuals let down by a series of different agencies and services, none of whom spoke to each other. It's hardly new (we are five years on from Baby P, Peter Connelly), but to reverse a hackneyed response, Lessons Have Not Been Learnt.

I felt a red mist descend when listening to one of the victims of the Rochdale sex abuse ring explain how she had reported her attackers to the police only to be ignored, or be arrested herself. Even when the crimes were undeniable, the authorities deemed these girls – who were suffering horrific mental and physical abuse – to be unreliable witnesses; therefore, cases could not be brought.

Last week, a survey of Lancashire police found that officers polled spent one day a week solving crime, the rest on "admin". On the surface of it, a depressing statistic. But when one learns that the rest of the time is spent on looking for missing people, assisting with those with mental health problems and dealing with troubled families, which might be the early intervention that prevents crime, it makes more sense.

Meanwhile, yesterday we heard that the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, is to lead a Labour Party review into establishing a "victims' law" that will protect witnesses from aggressive and traumatic cross-examining in court. That's welcome, but in isolation it's no good – we need to join up the services that come into contact with vulnerable people before criminal activity. In far too many cases we hear that, for instance, doctors never heard that a teacher saw a child eat dirt, or mental health services were not aware of calls to the police. If they talked to each other, these concerns should "go viral", and be noticed within the agencies.

This is going to sound facetious, but it's a serious suggestion: the emergency and social services, NHS and schools should have their own (highly encrypted) version of Twitter, where short bulletins on anything that concerned them could be shared and logged. Perhaps some of those philanthropic tech billionaires might turn their attention to this.

Making a splash

Last week's paper had a photograph of Prince William on the front page. He had lent his support to The Independent on Sunday's charity appeal, which raises funds to prevent elephant-poaching, and had given a strongly worded statement. One or two readers have commented that it seems disappointing and out of keeping for The IoS to have a royal in such a prominent position. In my eight months as editor, I had not until then had a reason to show any member of the Windsor family – not even the newest one.

But "baby being born" and "duchess wearing new dress" is one thing; one of the world's most famous and, arguably, influential men speaking out about conservation is another. Protecting our planet and the wildlife on it is at the heart of the ethos of The IoS. So I make no apology. (It's also, by the way, why I used a photograph of one of my mates as the "splash". He happened to be Frank Hewetson of the Greenpeace Arctic 30 protesters detained in Russia for two months, who had written to me from prison. Personal connection or preference is not significant: sharing an important message with the readers is.) And they both beat Strictly Come Dancing, IMHO.

Castaways calling

It's a Sunday morning habit: Andrew Marr at 9am; Radio 4's Broadcasting House at 9.45am. Have they mentioned the paper? What news has broken overnight? Then it's radio silence while The Archers grinds on. At 11.15am I return to Radio 4, for Desert Island Discs. Even if I don't like the castaway, or the music, it's always a compelling programme. And who hasn't compiled their own eight discs, just in case?

I felt a pang of sympathy, then, for Ant and Dec when their edition (to be broadcast this morning) was previewed. The poor dears don't merit a slot each; they come as one entity. But I suppose if you have made being joined at the hip your shtick for 23 years, you can't expect separation when it suits you.

I haven't heard the programme, but I hope to discover that when they eat dinner, they sit down Ant to one side with the knife, and Dec to the other with the fork. (Think about it.)

No slave to the audience

Our Arts & Books section has an excellent array of previews for the year ahead. I've been lucky enough to see one of the biggest films of 2014 – Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave. This harrowing, yet beautiful, adaptation of Solomon Northup's book – which details his brutal treatment at the hands of white masters – already has Oscars and Bafta buzz. At the screening I attended, director McQueen was asked questions about the subject matter, the contemporary parallels and about the astonishing scene in which Northup – the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor – is forced to whip a fellow slave. The scene continues longer than is comfortable, and a mother in the audience had shielded her teenage son's eyes. It was I who asked McQueen if he had measured how much to show, whether a balance of decrying and glorifying violence was weighed up. He was what I suspect is typically forthright in his response. "I didn't think about it," he answered. "I made the film because I wanted to, not for an audience." Bold, brief, words.

I wonder, though, whether he will be provoked into a longer retort following the scandal of the Italian posters advertising the film – which is, remember, an important study of the treatment of young black men and reveals a hitherto less known side to slavery. The posters showcased Brad Pitt, who appears briefly in the last 15 or so minutes. After this awards season, I suspect no one will dare mess with McQueen's uncompromising vision again.

Janet Street-Porter is away

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: EWI / IWI Installer

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Freeman, centre, with Lord Gladwyn, left, and Harold Wilson on the programme The Great Divide in 1963  

John Freeman was a man of note who chose to erase himself from history

Terence Blacker

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'