Most of the issues discussed in this section may appear to besimply matters of taste. However, as is nearly always the case,they go beyond the purely subjective question of our ownreaction and imply an attitude to others that appears to place thewriter and the views expressed in conflict with the liberal,inclusive values that define the Guardian. One of the principalvalues is the right to freedom of speech, and the question of thecompatibility of free speech with sensitivity to the feelings orcondition of others is very often a consideration.
The first column here, written in my first month in the role of
readers’ editor, looks at the way in which the Weekend magazinetreated the subject of pornography and notes in passing that theGuardian has no guidelines on the use of four-letter words. Nowit does have such guidelines, and you will be able to questiontheir effectiveness when the subject comes up again in the nextsection.
There are two articles here about the reporting of suicide, both
arguing the need for there to be some cautionary reference to itin the industry code monitored by the Press ComplaintsCommission. In August 2006, following the case describedbelow, where I express the hope that it might be catalytic inbringing change, the PCC did in fact ratify the following sub-clause: ‘When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoidexcessive detail about the method used.’ Adherence to a clausethat was introduced into the Guardian’s own code several years
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ago with a similar purpose – of minimising the risks of copycatsuicides – has not inhibited discussion of the topic in any way.
Among the other columns here is one that looks at the
legitimacy of applying humour in an area which, we might agree,requires the utmost sensitivity – in referring to Alzheimer’sdisease. As on many other occasions, the result of my owninquiries into that somewhat surprised me. A poor show for hard porn
Last Saturday, our magazine, Guardian Weekend, ran a coverstory about hard-core pornography in the United States. Itattracted more complaints than any other single item in the paperover the past month.
Two of the 16 letters, several of which were accompanied by
torn-out pages from the magazine and notices of cancellation, arepublished in Guardian Weekend today. One is from a reader whosays, ‘You have the right to discuss pornography. But I have theright to protect my children from degrading and offensivepictures of women.’ The other accuses us, in effect, of sinkinginto the morass the article set out to describe. It points out thatthe author ‘omitted to interview a single woman’ in the course ofa piece of more than 5,000 words spread over eight pages.
The principal cause of complaint was the pictures. One of
these was a full-page photograph of a group of four people, oneof whom, a woman, appeared to be masturbating. On anotherpage, there were juxtaposed photographs of two pornographers,one with his face a couple of inches from the rear of a nakedwoman, the other embracing a near-naked and apparently veryyoung girl.
These last two photographs appeared opposite a full-page ad
for toys (farm animals) for two- to five-year-olds.
There was anguish, more than anger, in many of the letters.
‘This is my first complaint after 45 years as a Guardian readerand enthusiast – who on earth can justify printing this selectionof photographs?’ One woman wrote, ‘Sadly the choice for me isnot between the Guardian and another paper, but betweensticking with the Guardian and taking no daily paper at all.’ Thiswas clearly not a gender or generation issue. The strength offeeling about the piece was common to men and women, andreaders who spanned a wide age range. Some readers saw the
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piece as a symptom of lowering standards, also indicated by anincreasing use of four-letter words. In this article, the word ‘fuck’– which at present occurs far more frequently in the Guardianthan any other serious newspaper in the United Kingdom –cropped up half a dozen times, always in quotes and often in thecontext of explicit description of the pornographer’s activities.
One colleague, unconnected with this piece, lamented, ‘It’s the
classic liberal trap. We believe that everything is up fordiscussion, but any way we do it, we’re going to be wrong.’ Whatwere we trying to do? The article began with great promise. Thewriter, quoting US News and World Report, told us that last yearAmericans spent $8bn on ‘hard-core videos, peep shows, live sexacts, adult cable programming, sexual vices, computer porn andsex magazines – an amount much larger than Hollywood’sdomestic box-office receipts and larger than all the revenuesgenerated by rock and country music recordings’. It referred tounsuccessful attempts to control and contain the growth of theindustry. It showed how it was quick to exploit advances inelectronic media. It argued that pornography had become asignificant element in American culture.
It was on the extended tour of the industry which then
followed that difficulties arose. We were introduced to leadingpornographers, given a detailed account of their activities andthey addressed us in their own language.
The writer of the article says he now recognises it as a
weakness that no interviews with women were included. Onewoman was interviewed but the result was discarded before thewriter submitted the piece because her language was so foul.
The editor responsible for last week’s magazine said she did
not accept that the way in which the porn industry works wasdescribed in a sensational way. The pictures were chosen to givesome idea of the ethos and tackiness of the industry. It wasdeemed a subject worthy of interest, partly because of thepossible spread of the phenomenon to Britain. The person
responsible for the pictures said that great care went into theirselection. Those chosen were the mildest available. No one hadseen the ad for toys before publication.
A characteristic of the complaints was the genuine dismay of
the readers. There was one positive letter responding to pointsmade in the article.
In my opinion, this was a perfectly legitimate subject that
demanded a greater awareness and sensitivity than it received. Insufficient thought was given to the effect of the pictures. Thereis no established practice of looking in advance at theadvertisements which will appear on pages carrying sensitivematerial. The Guardian at present has no readily accessibleguidelines on the use of four-letter words. Had guidelines beenavailable, those handling this article might have been alerted toother aspects of it.
The reader who said ‘I think you owe an apology to our poor
Humorous hyperbole or xenophobia? Beware of the horns of a bull, of the heels of a horse, of thesmile of an Englishman.
Many of you write to me in a state of perplexity at thegeneralised insults offered now and again through the pages ofthe Guardian at whole groups or – stimulated recently by theWorld Cup – entire nations.
On Friday last week one Guardian columnist discussed the
proposition that, in the words of the heading, ‘Anti-Germanfeeling seems to be the last acceptable prejudice’. It is reasonableto ask whether all his colleagues share his conclusion that ‘noprejudice is acceptable’. He went on: ‘Open the door to one formof xenophobia and you will soon find yourself well and trulyswamped.’
This is the kind of thing my correspondents expect from the
Guardian – a call to reason and reasonableness when the mob isroused. However I do not have to dig far into my postbag to findcomplaints directed at the Guardian for publishing the kind ofstereotypical remarks about the Germans that the article wasdiscussing. Exercises of this kind should, perhaps, be viewed witha degree of scepticism.
The bewilderment of some of you is expressed in terms similar
to the following, which comes from a reader complaining aboutwhat he saw as a recent unfair attack on the Irish in the contextof the World Cup: ‘Why is [the columnist] allowed to vent hispetulant jealousies in a supposedly “liberal” newspaper whichjust a few days ago was urging us all to get over our “tribalism”?’
This particular column prompted more than 100 complaints.
It had the distinction of rousing a previously unknown (to methat is) Irish lobby which accounted for a proportion of the mail.
When I took the complaints to the relevant section editor, heplucked handfuls of hair from his head, complained that thewhole thing had been misconstrued and that we wereexperiencing a (partly) orchestrated humour lapse.
Exactly what did the columnist say that aroused such ire? In
the course of a quite short piece, headed ‘Cheer the Irish? Never’,he registered his dismay at the result of the Ireland-Saudi Arabiagame. ‘I was cheering for the Saudis, out of a respect for theircriminal justice system. Given a choice between two right-of-centre agrarian theocracies, I’ll go with the more rigorous one, ifthat’s OK.’ By the time the column appeared, Ireland had beenknocked out by Spain: ‘Who will the world cheer for now thatthe lovable leprechauns have been returned to their misty hillsand treacherous bogs?’
One reader wrote: ‘I was surprised that your paper, which I
believed to be enlightened, would carry such a piece of hatred. Nice to see that the English tradition of fair play and tolerancelives on. I believe in freedom of speech, but … Imagine the shoebeing on the other foot.’
A reader from Dublin enquired whether the columnist knew
the Guardian was widely available in Ireland. ‘I myself wanderdown my own little misty hill and traverse a particularlytreacherous bog every morning to get my copy, although infuture I’ll be binning any supplement containing that patronisinggit’s column.’
That is enough to give a flavour of the more moderate
responses. The columnist is dismayed that what he thought washumorous hyperbole or irony aimed at stereotyping shouldapparently go so wide of the mark. ‘Does anyone really thinkthat I believe the Saudi and Irish regimes are similar?’
The features editor defends the column. The target, he says,
was not the Irish but the international and implicitly patronisinglove affair with the Irish football team – the cliched view of theIrish promoted by their part-time international fan club. Journalism RIGHT AND WRONG
Clearly then, this intention passed by a fairly large number of
readers. Several of you suggested that similar remarks would notbe allowed about, say, black or Jewish people. The editor of thepaper believes that considerable care should be taken not tooffend people who have recently been or are at present theobjects of discrimination.
You may ask whether that goes far enough. I do not think too
much should be made of the case I have been discussing. It is ayellow card, not a red one. But does it represent a tendency?
I have pointed out before that the Press Complaints
Commission protects individuals and not groups, arguing forreasonable freedom of speech. It throws responsibility back onthe individual journalist. Is it in safe hands?
Inadequate rules on suicide reporting
Two national newspapers, the Times and the Sun, and theLondon Evening Standard, carried pictures earlier this month ofa woman leaping to her death from a Kensington hotel. Anothershowed her standing on a high ledge before jumping. Like mostother papers, the Guardian considered the pictures and rejectedany idea of using them – the right decision.
As I write, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has
before it a number of complaints, including one from Samaritans. Their chief executive was quoted on the Media Guardian websiteexpressing dismay at ‘the gratuitously distressing coverage’ – anassessment with which I agree.
Samaritans complained that the illustrated coverage
breached clause 5 of the editors’ code that is monitored by thePCC. That clause in full states: ‘In cases involving personalgrief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made withsympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedingssuch as inquests.’
I have argued in the past that this clause does not adequately
cover the reporting of suicide and that it totally fails toacknowledge the phenomenon of imitative or copycat suicides. Nowhere in the code, nor in the Editors’ Codebook issued by thecode committee as a kind of companion to the code, is there anydiscussion of suicide as an issue requiring special attention.
It thus in effect ignores the advice of frontline organisations
such as Samaritans. Samaritans’ guidelines for the media state:‘Reports should avoid explicit details of method … and ifpossible avoid the use of dramatic photographs or images relatedto suicide. In retrospective reporting or reconstructions, actualdepiction of means should be avoided …’ The purpose of thesewords is to caution against the dangers of copycat suicides. Journalism RIGHT AND WRONG
As a columnist (Joan Smith), writing in the Independent –
which did not report the suicide in words or pictures – put it:‘Suicide … is a special case.’
A good starting point for journalists or for anyone prepared to
give this matter serious consideration is the survey conducted ayear or two ago by the PressWise Trust charity (now MediaWise:www.mediawise.org.uk). It includes a summary of a survey fromthe Centre for Suicide Research at the Department of Psychiatryat Oxford University: Suicidal Behaviour and the Mass Media.
MediaWise, in a statement issued immediately after
publication of the recent pictures, said: ‘The “suicide leap”pictures should not have been published. Evidence fromreputable studies conducted over many years indicates the risk ofcopycat behaviour when this type of coverage occurs.’
MediaWise also reminds us of the wording of a clause it has
been advocating as a necessary addition to the editors’ code:‘When reporting about suicide or suicide attempts, care shouldbe taken to avoid sensationalism and unnecessary detail, andparticular consideration should be given to the likely impact onfamily … especially children.’
I have advocated something very similar, such as inclusion of
the clause that now forms part of the Guardian’s own editorialcode. This says: ‘Guardian journalists should exercise particularcare in reporting suicide or issues involving suicide, bearing inmind the risk of encouraging others. This applies to presentation,including the use of pictures, and to describing the method ofsuicide. Any substances should be referred to in general ratherthan specific terms. When appropriate a helpline number (egSamaritans) should be given. The feelings of relatives should beconsidered.’
It may be that the complaint from Samaritans, since it comes
from a third party, will be deemed to fall outside the remit of thePCC. However, the PCC has received, among other complaints,two from close friends of the woman who jumped to her death.
It has launched an investigation into complaints about all threepapers concerned. It will be interesting to see if this unfortunateepisode will be the catalyst for a significant change in the code. A call for a code amendment
The Press Complaints Commission recently revealed that it has‘not upheld’ – a nice way of saying rejected – complaints aboutthe publication of pictures in three newspapers of a womanjumping to her death from the fourth floor of a London hotel. Itconcluded that publication of the pictures, in the Sun, theLondon Evening Standard and the Times, did not amount to abreach of clause five of the editors’ code, which deals withintrusion into grief or shock.
This really comes as no surprise. I have argued – most recently
in this column on January 16 this year – that the code as it standsis completely inadequate in relation to suicide. It does notmention it. I said in that column that in the light of everything wenow know or should know about suicide, particularly aboutimitative or copycat suicides, those three newspapers were wrongto publish the pictures, and those papers which chose not topublish them, including the Guardian, were right.
Organisations such as Samaritans have long sought to
persuade the media that reporting suicide calls for particularcare. What could be more relevant to this case than the followingextract from Samaritans’ guidelines: ‘If possible avoid the use ofdramatic photographs or images related to suicide’?
MediaWise, a charitable trust concerned with ethical
standards in journalism, has campaigned vigorously, andrightly in my view, for a change in the practice of suicidereporting based upon a knowledge of available research. Ithas cited, in particular, the study Suicidal Behaviour and theMass Media, by Kathryn Williams and Keith Hawton of theCentre for Suicide Research at Oxford University. A summaryof this and other relevant research has been available for along time at www.mediawise.org.uk. In addition, MediaWisealso offers training programmes for news organisations
prepared to accept that this is a matter that warrants specialconsideration.
MediaWise criticised the publication of these particular
pictures as ‘irresponsible and reprehensible’. Once again, it drewattention to the research and said: ‘The outcry about coverage of[this] tragic death … should alert editors to the value of having aspecific clause in the code of practice and clear in-house policieson responsible coverage.’
The Guardian has a clause in its own editorial code. Here it
is in full: ‘Suicide: Journalists should exercise particular care inreporting suicide or issues involving suicide, bearing in mindthe risk of encouraging others. This applies to presentation,including the use of pictures, and to describing the method ofsuicide. Any substances should be referred to in general ratherthan specific terms. When appropriate a helpline number (egSamaritans, 0845 790 9090) should be given. The feelings ofrelatives should also be carefully considered.’
I have seen no indication that the Guardian’s coverage has
been damaged by following this guidance. MediaWiseadvocates the adoption of a clause which is not dissimilar.
There are at last signs of some movement. The code of
practice committee of the Press Complaints Commission – onwhich the editor of the Guardian serves – has been asked by thecommission to consider whether the code ‘as it currently stands,is sufficient to cover the reporting of suicide, and any suddendeath. This would include whether the code might be amendedspecifically to address the issue of “copycat” suicides.’
The code committee meets later this week. A couple of weeks
ago Press Gazette, a weekly magazine for journalists, made itsown editorial comment on the affair. It concluded that it hadbeen wrong for newspapers to carry pictures of the woman inmid-air (choosing to illustrate the point by showing how the Sunhad done just that). ‘What it does highlight,’ it said, ‘is the needfor the editors’ code committee to look more closely at how the
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code covers reporting suicides. When a flaw is uncovered, itmust be put right. That’s exactly how self-regulation is supposedto work.’
Journalists and their generation games
One of the ideas I grew up with in journalism, and have neverquite grown out of, was that newspapers had the potential torelieve society of its prejudices, or, only slightly more realistically,to ameliorate them. The potential is greater now in the age of thenew media than it was when I started 50 years ago. Many of thecomplaints I deal with are concerned with journalism that doesnot do that but has the effect of reinforcing prejudice, often bythe tedious repetition of stereotypical views.
Let us take age and ageism. In newspapers the latter is perhaps
related to an endemic obsession with the former. An obsessionwith age? A recent report about the death of a witness in the so-called NatWest Three case included an interview with a neighbourof the man and, in quoting her view of him, noted that she was37. In what scale of values is that a relevant piece of information?In this case it is simply the working of a journalistic reflex.
To come closer to the point, earlier this year the paper started
a report of the rescue of two transatlantic sailors with thestatement: ‘Most retired people are content to fill their daysdoting on grandchildren, creating their ideal garden, and takingrelaxing holidays’ – perhaps a pity when the headline was anirreproachable: ‘Couple rescued after attempt to sail Atlanticfails’. She was 68; he was 64.
A reader wrote: ‘Had the couple been under 25, would the
lead have been “Most young people are content to fill their daysdrinking themselves senseless, watching crap TV, and shagging asmuch as possible …”’ She suggested an alternative introduction:‘Exemplifying the growing trend for people to take up newchallenges in later life …’
Occasionally the Guardian gets it very wrong, although one of
the most recent examples that understandably drew strongcomplaint from several readers was in the advertising and not the
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editorial columns. It was a related pair of advertisements. Thefirst showed a grey-haired (and possibly blind) woman at thewindow of a car, the driver of which had stopped to ask the way. The copy read, ‘Want directions you can trust? Turn the page.’Over the page was an advertisement for a satellite navigationsystem. The Guardian advertising executive who responded tothe complainants conceded that they did have a point. Theadvertisements were not scheduled to appear again.
On the other hand, when in March the cartoonist Steve Bell
caricatured the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir MenziesCampbell, as a toothless chicken at a walking frame, no onecomplained. Sir Menzies Campbell, by the way, is a mere 65.
Sometimes the paper gets it almost startlingly right. Several
newspapers carried a story about a 92-year-old woman abseilingdown a 220ft tower block. In the Daily Mirror she was DangerGran. In the Sun she was Action Nan. The Guardian’s headingsimply said: ‘Tower of strength – abseiling at 92 from office block’.
In The Long History of Old Age (Thames and Hudson, 2005),
the editor Pat Thane, commenting on the pressures that havebrought about changes in the generally acceptable terminologyrelating to older people, writes: ‘Such changes were driven byperceptions of the disparities between a language whichconstructed people above a certain age as helpless and dependentand the visible reality that increasing numbers of them were not.’
In Ageing Societies (Hodder Arnold, 2006), the director of the
Oxford Institute of Ageing, Sarah Harper, writes: ‘By 2030 halfthe population of western Europe will be aged over 50, with apredicted average life expectancy at age 50 of a further 40 years;that is, half western Europe’s population will be between 50 and100 years.’ She also notes: ‘The group aged 80 years and over isthe fastest growing age group in the world’ I enter my eighthdecade tomorrow. Do you want to make something of it?
Abuse of a minority already much abused
On January 31 the Guardian’s Weekend magazine published thefirst of two articles by the lesbian feminist Julie Bindel. Thecolumn, under the heading ‘Gender benders, beware’, applaudedthe decision by the British Columbia supreme court to overturna ruling that the human rights of Kimberley Nixon, a male-to-female transsexual, had been violated when she was denied theopportunity to train as a counsellor of female rape victims. MsNixon was referred to as ‘she’ in quotation marks. What rapevictims would expect, the writer argued, was counselling from‘women who have suffered similar experiences, not from a manin a dress’.
The writer similarly applauded a judge’s decision in Britain to
reject a claim of sex discrimination brought against a publandlord by five male-to-female transsexuals ‘only one of whomhad disposed of his meat and two veg’. She criticised the EqualOpportunities Commission for supporting the claimants andagreed with the judge, who said that, while he respected theirwish to be regarded as women, a person’s wish (apparentlyquoting the judge directly) ‘doesn’t determine what he is’.
Further into the piece there was a reference to Kwik-Fit sex
changes, and the injunction to ‘think about a world inhabitedjust by transsexuals. It would look like the set of Grease.’ Thecolumn concluded: ‘To go back to my five men and a toilet, Idon’t have a problem with men disposing of their genitals, but itdoes not make them women, in the same way that shoving a bitof vacuum hose down your 501s does not make you a man.’
The column attracted about 200 letters, nearly all of which I
have read. There was clearly an international lobby at work butthis by no means accounted for all the mail. All but four or fiveof the letters were condemnatory of the views expressed in thecolumn. Many of them condemned the publication of the piece. Journalism RIGHT AND WRONG
They also criticised the caricature illustration used with thecolumn – a hairy-chested tattooed figure in a dress with a badgereading ‘I’m a lady.’
Most of the letters went directly to Weekend, which published
four of them – all critical of the column – the following Saturday. Some later correspondents felt that freedom of expression hadthus been reasonably exercised. One wrote, ‘[Julie Bindel’s]diatribe about transsexuals was unbelievably insensitive, butnevertheless she had a perfect right to express her thoughts, andto suffer the resulting slings and arrows.’
About a dozen letters came to me in the form of complaints.
Some readers also made it clear that they were complaining tothe Press Complaints Commission. The complaints were broadlythat the article poured gratuitous offence on the members of aminority who already suffered discrimination and sometimesphysical attack; that it showed not just a lack of sympathy but alack of understanding of the experience of a transsexual person;that the language used by the writer tended to reinforcestereotypical views of transsexual people and thereby toencourage others to treat them with disdain or even hatred.
The editor of Weekend said: ‘We [run] vigorous, opinionated
and provocative columns on a whole range of subjects and this issomething I’m keen to continue and protect … There are verymany times that we disagree with our columnists, sometimesvociferously, but that is not the point – we are not looking forconsensus.
‘In this case, we thought that what Julie Bindel was writing
was particularly interesting because it came from her – a lesbianactivist for the rights of women and children … She is a rare kindof writer who puts her money where her mouth is.’
Julie Bindel said that writing in a different place and at greater
length the tone might have differed and the piece itself have beenmore analytical. ‘I know that lots of those wishing to go throughsex change are deeply troubled and suffer discrimination.’
However, she would still say that was not the solution. ‘We haveinvented a solution to a problem that we still do not reallyunderstand.’
Dismay at the piece was registered not only by transsexual
people but also by doctors, therapists, academics and othersinvolved in the field. One therapist wrote: ‘Transgendered peoplewould like to go about their lives in peace and dignity.’ Thiscolumn, which obscured any argument in discriminatorylanguage, would not help them to do that. It abused an alreadyabused minority that the Guardian might have been expected toprotect. Humour and the bad taste test
Here is a joke that has been circulating in the medical professionabout Alzheimer’s disease. What does the patient get if youprescribe Aricept (brand name of one of the drugs now used tostabilise the symptoms of the disease) and (the anti-impotencedrug) Viagra? Answer: A night to remember.
This is actually a version of a joke now so old that it has been
held up as a classic. It was chosen as one of the ‘75 funniest jokesof all time’ according to a poll conducted for American GQ,among comedians and comedy writers. We reprinted this in ournews digest supplement, the Editor, on May 28. ‘A man goes tothe doctor. The doctor says, “I have bad news, and I have worsenews. The bad news is you have Alzheimer’s. The worse news isyou have inoperable cancer and you’ll be dead in two months.”The man says, “Well at least I don’t have Alzheimer’s.”’
A reader who has a spouse with Alzheimer’s wrote to object to
that joke. She said: ‘You should know that Alzheimer’s disease isnot a mildly amusing case of forgetfulness in old age but involvesthe loss of so much that defines us as people: the ability to makerelationships, to read, even to speak, loss of control over basicself care and even over bodily functions.’
The repetition of the joke in the magazine prompted the reader
to write directly to me asking me to explain, ‘where offendingthose whose brains are disintegrating and their carers comes inyour hierarchy of concern’. One other reader wrote to complainabout a version of the joke that referred to Ronald Reagan.
I was curious to know what my colleagues thought so I
circulated the Reagan joke in the Guardian office, with thefollowing questions: Did you laugh at this? Were you offended?Would you have published it?
About 35 replied. A small majority did not find it funny, most
because it was a hairy old (and some said tasteless) gag. Onlythree were personally offended, but when it came to the question196
of publication almost a third would not have used it because theyfelt that the offence to others was very easily anticipated andshould have been avoided. However, a majority still thought itwas all right to publish.
Several of those who were uncomfortable with it did not like
the fact that it was directed at an individual. I did not like thateither. A couple said, try it this way: ‘Iris Murdoch goes to thedoctor’s …’ Or put in the name of a relative who has Alzheimer’s. The humour, someone suggested, quickly evaporates.
The most interesting result from this random survey was the
discovery among the 35 or so who responded, of sevencolleagues who had all cared or were caring for a close relativewith Alzheimer’s. Every one in this group defended thepublication of the joke and the therapeutic value of humour topatients and carers.
One colleague said, ‘I really think that faced with a loved one
suffering from Alzheimer’s or senile dementia, as I am with mymother, the best thing you can do is laugh … She now has maybe2% of her old life left to her yet she still has moments ofenjoyment and laughter.’ Another, who described the most taxingstate of affairs, said, ‘If you make light of the situation, it doesn’tmean you don’t care or love them, or that they are no longer theperson you remember.’
The reader who complained to me suggested I spoke to Linda
Grant, who has written about her mother’s Alzheimer’s and who,on Wednesday, wrote in G2 about another person with the disease. Grant told me, ‘I think the black humour that surrounds thisdisease is often the only way it is made bearable for family andeven people who have it.’ She said the head of residential service atthe home which looks after her mother had told her that hethought the most helpful book for relatives would be a joke book.
Before I forget, the joke that I began with. I had that from the
chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Disease Society. He said quitea lot of carers complained about Alzheimer’s jokes, feeling that
Journalism RIGHT AND WRONG
they trivialised things. But jokes, he added, undoubtedly had arole in coping and caring.
I went back to the reader who had complained. She said she
felt this one had been laughing at, not with. Then she added,jokes OK, but please don’t print crap ones.
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