The Only Way is Ethics: Did I blow a chance to cure flu?

It would be po-faced to censor all jokes about the physical appearance of public figures

Share

With so many awful things happening in the world, it seems slightly trivial to write about sport. But I go where the grumbles take me.

A reader last week expressed concern that a columnist had been beastly about Wayne Rooney, by passing judgement not only on his footballing ability but also on his looks (“King Edward-faced” did not, in this context, mean regal-looking). Comments on such non-football matters were, the reader said, “inaccurate and unnecessary”.

Well, on the second point, he is strictly right, if he means that the points being made in the piece were not absolutely reliant on an analysis of Rooney’s looks. As to whether they were inaccurate, that ultimately is a matter of opinion.

Poking fun at individuals ought to serve a purpose, even if the purpose is simply to be funny. But occasionally, it can become a default way to get a laugh. Teasing a person – especially someone in the public eye – about their looks, beliefs, mannerisms or just for being Nick Clegg tends to be an easy, if lazy, joke (as this sentence may prove).

There are certainly times when the tendency goes too far. Focusing on a person’s appearance can simply be cruel. But I do not think the column which was the subject of last week’s complaint fell into that category. Its author was mock-raging about the failure of his bet that Wayne Rooney would score a hatful of goals against Italy at the World Cup. In that context, throwing in a reference about Rooney looking like a potato seemed like a fairly mild way to achieve genuine comic impact.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. It is a good rule in life. But newspapers might struggle if columnists had to be perfect before they were allowed to make jokes or offer a critique about other individuals.

A criminal with a vital story to tell

Today we run extracts from The News Machine: Hacking, the Untold Story by James Hanning, deputy editor of The Independent on Sunday, written in collaboration with phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire.

In case you missed it in yesterday’s IoS, where the serialisation began, it is worth re-emphasising that Mulcaire has not been paid for the publication of the extracts. Nor, in fact, is he benefitting from royalties on sales of the book. This financial point is relevant because the rules of the newspaper industry prohibit payments to criminals for information, unless there is a public interest justification.

We know some readers may feel uneasy that we have given Mulcaire’s story wider coverage. Yet we feel strongly in this case there is a public interest in bringing the information in this book to a wider audience.

Did I blow a chance to cure flu?

The introduction last year of an online complaints form has, I hope, made it easier for readers to contact us. Spamming is thankfully rare.

So what to make of this “complaint” that landed in my inbox last week: “I propose to make a flu vaccine based on my blood... I have super immunity against many infectious diseases.” It looks like spam. But what if the writer has the ability to protect us all? Should I pass it to the NHS? Or have I just poked fun at an individual for no particular purpose?

React Now

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

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
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