Journalism education and tips for journalists

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The right way to say sorry

I am no lover of either the British Conservative Party nor the Spactator magasine, but Tory MP and Spectator editor Boris Johnson shows how a journalist can apologise with grace while still retaining the main point of an argument.
In an article on on the breaking of a minutes silence to honour the British hostage killed in Iraq, he made the points that:
a) The people in the crowd were rebelling against an imposed sentiment
b) We all have some responsibility for the situation (of danger) we place ourselvs in

Here are Johnsons final paragraphs:

We concluded with a point - which I stick by - about risk, and the risks Ken was willingly running, and our modern refusal to accept that we may be in any way the authors of our own misfortunes. I now think that the point was valid, but that it was tasteless to make it in the context of Ken Bigley's death.
Above all, we have simply no excuse for getting our facts wrong about the Hillsborough tragedy. We said "more than 50" Liverpool supporters died. That was I suppose technically accurate, but the real number was 96, as ten seconds on Google would have shown.
I repeat that in so far as the leader made a serious point about
risk and sentimentality, and the culture of blame, I stick by it. In so far as it imposed an outdated stereotype on the whole of Liverpool, and thereby caused offence, I sincerely apologise.
Apologise for the wrongs, hold to the principle and do it with humility. A fine model for a journalistic apology.


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