Michael Williams: Readers' editor

Don't worry about Sting. He can handle a bad review
Click to follow
The Independent Online

What's the difference between customer service and a readers' editor? Answer: the reader is not always right. And readers' editors don't always have to grovel.

Take this complaint from reader Tina Williams from London. "Are you short of staff, short of content, or is your editor too busy? Why send someone with a passionate dislike of Sting to review the Police gig? 'It's Sting, unbeaten champion of the Biggest Git in Rock Contest for more than two decades...'. I went to the Wembley concert on Sunday and I had the misfortune of reading this review on the train home. It has bugged me ever since."

Get a life, Ms Williams. It would be a dull world if we only sent critics to gigs who were fans. (And the same applies to book, film, theatre and restaurant reviewers. Remember Ken Tynan? Or even Michael Winner?) The occasional scathing review is the adult equivalent of the pleasure a child gets from knocking over a pile of bricks. It adds fun to life, and the egos of stars such as Sting and the sensitivities of fans should be generous enough to bear it.

Wasn't it fun seeing Keith Richards throw his toys out of the pram the other day when he threatened to sue two Swedish newspapers that published scathing reviews of the Stones' Stockholm concert? One claimed that the 63-year-old guitarist was "extremely drunk" on stage. "Print the truth," said Richards in a letter to the paper. So the critic did: "I'm not going to apologise for my subjective opinion," he wrote. "It's Keith who should apologise. After all, it costs $145 (£72) to see a rock star who can hardly handle the riffs."

I'm with Simon Price on this one. And Sting was lucky that he didn't get a review like this, of Irvine Welsh's latest novel in 'The Times': "This is a demeaning book that cants the reader's soul downwards, making it feel complicit with the writer's dishonest short-changing of his readership, telling them that this lazy, dishonest, appallingly written rubbish is the real thing while laughing all the way to the bank as a result of our gullibility." So there.

Even more pettifogging is the following from reader Chris Grayson: "The chart on page 31 today says that 68 miles of new 'track' were laid on the new line to the Channel Tunnel. This should be 68 miles of new route. In railway terminology 'route mileage' and 'track mileage' have clear and distinct accepted meanings; the route mileage is the distance between given points, the total length of a network etc, regardless of the number of tracks on the route; the track mileage the total mileage of single, double or multiple track on a given route..."

Enough, Mr Grayson. You are technically correct, but the 'IoS' was also right not to bore its readers. A readers' editor special issue anorak is on its way to you.

Corrections and clarifications

The ones that do matter. We wrongly located Wetherby in North Yorkshire. It is, in fact, in West Yorkshire. And Newcastle upon Tyne does not take hyphens. Apologies to all aggrieved Geordies who wrote in.

Comments