Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ok, you can make us look stupid

A couple of readers pointed out yesterday that we had carried a letter in the Mercury with a not very subtle reference to 'uphill gardening' - a not very pleasant homophobic insult - purporting to be a comment on expense claims by MP Alan Duncan. Fair enough, we were pretty stupid, or at least very naive, for not spotting the gag, but what was the point?

We try to give pretty free reign to our readers through both the letters in the paper and through the comments on our website. The letter would have been read by at least three people at the Mercury before it ended up in print and obviously none of them picked up on the reference even though it was pretty obvious once somebody had pointed it out. So what? It's a term that I hope none of them would use and it's possible that they may not even have heard it before (although, I had).

It reminds me of a website that I once saw which was put together by a group of people who spent their time trying to place as many small ads in a newspaper on a given day containing a pretty obscure smutty term. I'm sure it made them giggle, but I don't get it - I can't even remember what the term was, but I'd never heard it used and I'm sure the vast majority of the newspaper's readers hadn't either. What they'd managed to do was con someone in the advertising department into thinking it was a genuine ad. Well done. It's why I don't really like April Fool stories in newspapers - what do they prove? Apart, that is, from the fact that our readers tend to trust us and believe what we write. May be naively, we tend to trust our readers, especially in those parts of the newspaper where they write under their own name, rather than ours.

Anyway, the letter in the Mercury this week was pretty obnoxious and I apologise to both Alan Duncan and any reader who was offended. I'm sorry.


  1. Hi Keith, just came across your blog via twitter @moseeds. Really really interesting and love your writing. Just moved to London for a new job so being able to read the Mercury online everyday is a boon! Thanks, will be keeping an eye on this as well as the mercury from now on. Thanks!

  2. Thanks - I'm only interested in blogging if it's worthwhile ... ie interesting. So, appreciate your comments. Let me know if you see anything here or in the Mercury that you'd like to know more about. keith


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