For those who tend to mock cricket for being rather slow, even twee, the horrible death this week of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes might serve to change their minds.
It hardly needs to be said that cricket can be extremely dangerous. Fast bowlers hurl a very hard ball at their opponents from 22 yards away. Most people who have played the game – at whatever level – have been injured to one degree or another.
Some readers were upset at an article which appeared the day after Hughes was hurt, while he remained critical in hospital. It highlighted the difficulties Hughes had experienced against short-pitched bowling in the past and noted the tragic irony that, having seemingly overcome the deficiency, he had nonetheless been felled so brutally by a bouncer.
When sportsmen or women are involved in on-field accidents it is not uncommon to speculate on the possible reasons. When Formula 1 drivers crash, commentators question their track line. If a footballer breaks their leg in a tackle, the television cameras immediately show us from five angles whether the player had put themself at risk with poor timing.
Our piece about Hughes made a fairly brief reference to the way in which he had endeavoured to play the particular ball which hit him but that was not its central purpose. In truth, Hughes was simply the victim of the most hideous bad luck. Moreover, the article was only one element of our coverage of the tragedy, though it looked starker as a standalone item online than it did in the print edition.
In one respect, we certainly did go wrong. The article initially appeared under a headline which said that Hughes’s old problem against bouncers had come back “to haunt him”. Given how critically ill Hughes was, the use of that phrase was deeply unfortunate. It was subsequently changed on the web.
Phillip Hughes: Career in pictures
Phillip Hughes: Career in pictures
1/7 Phil Hughes
Hughes burst onto the international scene by scoring 115 and 160 against South Africa in just his second Test
2/7 Phil Hughes
Hughes, playing here in a tour match against Sussex, is well known to English fans after spells with Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcestershire
3/7 Phil Hughes
In last summer's Ashes series Hughes scored 81* at Trent Bridge as part of a 10th wicket partnership of 163 with the debutant Ashton Agar
4/7 Phil Hughes
Hughes's most recent Test outing was the Lords test of the 2013 Ashes series
5/7 Phil Hughes
Hughes has scored 1535 runs in 26 Test appearances at an average of 32.65
6/7 Phil Hughes
Despite making his Test debut in 2009 Hughes is still just 25 - he has played 114 First Class matches and scored 26 centuries
7/7 Phil Hughes
Although he has been absent from the Test line-up, Hughes recently regained his place in the One Day side for series against Pakistan and South Africa
Using everyday turns of phrase that are either metaphorical or have two possible meanings can be perilous. A former colleague was mortified when he sent a letter to a blind person which began: “I thought you would like to have sight of the following…” And not long ago I suggested unthinkingly to somebody that the potential inclusion of a particular detail in a story about a pedestrian fatality was not something to “die in a ditch for”. These slips happen all too easily.
Nevertheless, when writing about death or serious injuries, we have a duty to be sensitive. That can be hard to define. But inadvertently we erred with our headline and for that I am sorry.
Do mention the Germans
A thief last week stole items from a museum on the site of a Second World War concentration camp at Majdanek.
We described the site as being in Poland, which it is, and said it had been run by the Nazis, which it was. But we did not refer to Germany or to Germans, which led one reader to complain. He argued it was potentially misleading to omit reference to Germany because younger readers might only have sketchy knowledge of the war and would be left with the impression that Poland, as a nation, had helped to carry out the Holocaust.
I would like to think this is unlikely. Then again, a survey a few years ago found 25 per cent of Britons aged 15 to 19 could not name any of Germany’s wartime allies.
Journalism is said to be the first draft of history. Once that draft has been edited, verified and accepted, the media has a vital role in ensuring that historical events are not open to future misunderstanding.Reuse content