Something of a theme has emerged in recent Open Door columns, which have looked at the way in which the Guardian describes minority groups, and furthermore what members of those groups think of that language.Because no-one at the ‘Guardian’ can see any issues arising out of giving over control of language to the perpetually aggrieved…
One error that seems ever more important to correct in the light of the debate about the age at which state pensions are to be paid is the misuse of the word “elderly” .Quite! 60 is the new 40, and all that.
As well as exercising caution around language, journalists increasingly have to be sensitive to the needs of readers who are affected by the issues being reported on or discussed.
On 3 February the Guardian published a story on its website with the headline “Man suspected of killing estranged wife had been jailed for assaulting her”. It gave some background to a tragic story about a man who was found dead after his wife and two children had been murdered. … It is now our standard practice when a story involves suicide to print contact details for the Samaritans in a footnote, as we did on this occasion.Oh, your heart just melts at the bafflement that lurks unmentioned here, doesn’t it? Pity the poor ‘Guardian’ writer, following the guidelines faithfully, unaware of the lurking danger:
Several readers were puzzled by the decision: “I was surprised to see, at the end of your report on the identification of Geraldine Newman’s estranged husband as the murderer of her and her two children, a link to the Samaritans. I do understand there being an editorial policy in place that requires this to follow any article dealing with a suicide, but when reporting the case of a man previously convicted of assaulting his wife going on to kill her, their children and later himself, it seems misplaced. Perhaps a link to Women’s Aid and similar organisations internationally would have been more appropriate? It strikes me that the Guardian is recognising the wrong victim here.”
I am sure that no judgment was intended, but I understand the points made by these readers. I don’t think one set of contact details should be dropped for another, as there may well be people who would benefit from counselling or help in all of these circumstances. On this occasion two sets of contact details would be the answer – at least on the web where there is the space.
But it is an ethical consideration that even five years ago I am sure most journalists would not have expected to encounter.Hahahahahahahahahahahaha! You sowed the wind, now reap that whirlwind!