Michael Williams: Readers' editor

For Harry, the war is over. For us, the flak still flies
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The Independent Online

"Hero" Harry may have swapped the battlefields of Helmand for the more familiar struggle of catching the barman's eye to order a Peach Smash at Mahiki. But he's left behind a guerrilla war over whether the media were right to agree to a news blackout on the prince's brief fighting career. And like the Afghan war itself, the sniping looks set to continue.

Was Channel 4's Jon Snow right to think that viewers and readers might never want to trust the media again? Or were you cheerleading the prince, alongside the head of Sky News, who said: "News blackouts happen all the time, with kidnaps and the PM's travel plans. It would be naïve of anyone to think it was a first. It just happens to be a sexier story."

Many 'Independent on Sunday' readers have applauded the paper's decision last week to run a front-page story which went against the grain – "Harry's war: the ugly truth" – rather than the "slavish and sycophantic drivel that filled most of the Sunday press", as one reader put it. But some of you are uneasy. "The 'Indy' once took a brave stand against royal trivia," writes Michael Walters from St Helens. "Now it has sold itself out to a Palace PR stunt." "You, of all papers, should be against censorship," chides Amy Jennings, from Tooting. Others worry that it may be the tip of an iceberg. "What else," emails reader Paul Wilson, "does this arrogant cartel of editors know about that they are holding back from us?"

Not much, is the answer – so no need to get paranoid. In a long involvement with news coverage in the 'Independent' titles, I can only think of one major news blackout that would shock you if you knew the subject matter. (No, it's nothing to do with rumours of two former cabinet ministers having a gay affair.) But because of its sensitivity, you'd have to agree the decision by editors not to run with it was right.

But equally, not all other news blackouts can be breezily dismissed as being about kidnaps, blackmail, bomb scares or prime-ministerial visits to war zones. Not long ago, at the height of this newspaper's investigations into the Labour "cash for honours" affair, the police stitched up a deal with No 10 for a news blackout about their questioning of Tony Blair – the first time any British prime minister had had his collar felt. This time the press were left out. We need to remain vigilant.

We have to be vigilant, too, about the growing number of errors appearing in the paper. In 'The New Review' we recently referred to J M Barrie's 'Admiral Crichton' when it should, of course, have been 'The Admirable Crichton'. Another writer described actress Emily Mortimer as a "trooper". She may well swear like one, but he should have written "trouper". A leader writer talked about "British state schools" when he really should have said "state schools in England and Wales" (the Scottish education system is quite different). The perpetrators all know who they are, and will be spending the rest of today on the naughty step.


Message Board: What can we do to reduce food waste?

The IoS report last week that 20 million tons of unused food are thrown out in Britain every year lead to a verbal scrap...


It's shameful how much we waste in this country. I always try my best to not throw food away; living on a tight budget does that to you. In the supermarket I have seen a full clear plastic bin bag of bread ready to be thrown out.

Fiona Beckett

Eating frugally runs counter to the trend for people to spend less and less time in the kitchen. If you want to avoid waste you have to be prepared to cook, or at least find a use for your leftovers.

Oliver Dykes

Go vegetarian. Meat production is shockingly inefficient: many more people would be fed properly (and healthily) if the wheat went straight to people rather than to livestock.


The only way to ensure that waste and pollution are not big problems is to reduce the world's population to around 2 billion – not hard to do either.

David Vintner

The world population will not reach 8 billion; there will be massive starvation long before that. The increase in world population at one and a half million every week, is exceeding the amount by which world food supply is growing.

Neil McGowan

Supermarket packaging is the principal problem. You can't buy two tangerines any longer; you have to buy a 1kg string bag of them. Then they sell you a carrier bag and tell you it's their "green policy".

Lee Miller

Recycle the carbon through your farms and gardens. You Brits are such great gardeners, I am surprised you put food waste into landfills thus taking nutrients out of natural cycles.


Cut down on waste by avoiding supermarkets. Buy only the food you need locally. Shop on foot. You won't buy too much if you have to carry it home.

To have your say on this or any other issue visit www.independent.co.uk/IoSblogs