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

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories