Our Crack Tongue & Groove
When readers attack
“Can I write this? Would that be libellous?” is probably the question our writers ask me the most (to which the answer is usually, “Yes, that would be libellous but I’ll tweak it a bit and sneak it in”). We’ve not had any lawyers on the phone for a good few years now, but readers do get in touch from time to time. And while the vast majority of correspondence we have is largely positive, we do, occasionally, hear from irate types.
Only last month someone wrote us a letter annoyed that we’d implied that he/she was in favour of bringing back hanging. It took me a while to work out quite what they were getting at, but it referred to a daft piece of fluff in the September issue of the magazine about a cruise for David Hasselhoff fans. In the article we stated: “Most people who voted to leave the European Union last year are also firm believers in bringing back the death penalty.” The apoplectic letter writer had indeed voted to leave the EU but was certainly not in favour of bringing back hanging. The key here was “Most people” and our source for that info titbit was actually the BBC in an online piece titled “The link between Brexit and the death penalty”. I couldn’t reply to the letter writer as they left neither name nor address so, if you’re reading, take it up with the BBC (and your fellow Leavers who seem to be well up for a bit of public flogging).
Earlier in the year someone took umbrage with a subheading in the magazine stating: “If you’ve ever wanted to go toe-to-toe with some of the most fearsome creatures ever to walk the earth (and I’m not talking about Cliff Richard fans)…” She wrote: “I’m a Cliff Richard fan and have been for the past 50 years! Are you suggesting that I’m one of the most fearsome creatures to walk the earth?” I replied stating I certainly didn’t mind a bit of Cliff (Wired For Sound remains a classic), but was trying to suggest, in the article, that no one stands up for their idol quite like Cliff Richard fans, and wasn’t she kind of proving my point by taking up cudgels on the Peter Pan of Pop’s behalf? She didn’t reply but I sincerely hope that by playing fast and loose with Cliff’s fans’ affections it hasn’t cost us a reader.
Punctuation caused another reader strife in June when we previewed the free summer gigs in South Shields. We said: “Louisa Johnson is heading up a trio of X-Factor stars also including Jedward (!!!)” A disgruntled Jedward fan took those three exclamation marks to mean something along the lines of: Look, we all know that Jedward are terrible, but, hey, you’ll get to see those gonks off the telly for free. “As you can probably gather, I am passionate about Jedward and just find it disheartening when people don’t give their new music a chance,” she wrote. It remains my favourite bit of correspondence all year because there’s nothing I love more than pop fans sticking up for their heroes. Her evident passion sent me trawling through Jedward’s back catalogue, and, do you know what, I’d take them over the likes of The Foo Fighters any day of the week. No more “!!!” for Jedward here on in. (Slighted Foo Fighters fans - you can find our email address somewhere on this site.)