LETTER from THE EDITOR

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The Independent Online
One thing newspapers are, in general, pretty lousy at is continuity. A scare flares up - whether it be mysterious flesh-devouring viruses in the Home Counties or killer bees with Continental accents or life-threatening hamburgers. There is a brief explosion of headline-writing, avid reportage and doom-laden (often cod-environmental) analysis. Then the whole thing subsides within a few days. Nothing seems to follow. Other events crowd out the story and the media caravan rumbles on. Oil tankers "destroy" an ecology; jets plummet mysteriously from the sky; governments promise to reform the way they deal with Parliament: but, apparently, there is nothing to be said and the promised inquiries or reviews seep harmlessly away into a journalistic void. Perhaps this merely reflects the short attention spans and picture-sensibility of the television age. But it surely has the effect of making shrewd readers deeply cynical about the whole business as they sense their purchase on events slipping.

Here, we are trying to return to "old" stories more regularly and deliberately - looking, for instance, at what is happening to beef farmers now. But I'd be interested in readers' views about this whole matter, and examples of forgotten stories you want to hear more about.

Meanwhile, some readers tell me that we have been too jokey at times. It certainly worries me that the paper has not been described as the Indescribably Boring for many months. Sorry, sorry, sorry. All I can do is plead with arch traditionalists to stick with us; we are genuinely very dull and humourless people and will strive to remain so.

I spent some of the Bank Holiday week in Devon, at the wonderful town of Budleigh Salterton, where the lack of a sandy beach has helped keep the place relatively quiet and unspoiled. Compared to France, the great difference with the English coast is the relative difficulty of finding good seafood. Throughout Britain and Ireland, shellfish of all sorts still seem to be regarded as nasty, slimy things to be packed up as quickly as possible and sent by lorry to the continent. You get the occasional lurid pink ''crab-stick'' and a rather sad plastic pot of pickled mussels, but that's your lot.

However, this year - and it may just be me - it seems that there are suddenly more good, cheap crabs on sale, and even edible shellfish. Perhaps continental holidays have returned more Britons to the habit of eating local seafood. Even so, the French do these things much better; they have bulots in the shell, served on beds of fresh seaweed, with local bread and butter. We have deshelled whelks in paper bags, viscous and gummy in the heat.

Finally, readers may have noticed the appalling experiences endured by our columnist Ms Bridget Jones in Bangkok. Well, she has undoubtedly been very stupid. Mind you, on occasion, Bridget is very stupid. And, now I come to think of it, those occasions are not occasional occasions. These may seem strange words for an editor to use, even harsh ones. Some readers (take a bow, G. Langley of Bristol) complain about our using Jones in the first place. But she is basically a good person and honest. This seems to me to be a good quality in journalism, if a rare one. Perhaps if the Home Secretary is reading this - you never know - he might consider her case. After all, she helps pay his salary.

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