Friday, 18 January 2013

Media Quotes of the Week: From backing Burchill to why British journalists are tougher than the rest

Julie Burchill (top) in the Observer: "To have your cock cut off and then plead special privileges as women – above natural-born women, who don't know the meaning of suffering, apparently – is a bit like the old definition of chutzpah: the boy who killed his parents and then asked the jury for clemency on the grounds he was an orphan."

Lib Dem MP on Twitter: "Julie Birchill rant against transgender community is absolutely disgusting - a bigoted vomit for which the Observer should sack her."

Telegraph editor on Twitter: "Shocking calls for a columnist to be sacked - a liberal! - but no surprise post-Leveson. Trust ignores her"

John Mulholland, editor of The Observer, in a statement: "We have decided to withdraw from publication the Julie Burchill comment piece 'Transsexuals should cut it out'. The piece was an attempt to explore contentious issues within what had become a highly-charged debate. The Observer is a paper which prides itself on ventilating difficult debates and airing challenging views. On this occasion we got it wrong and in light of the hurt and offence caused I apologise and have made the decision to withdraw the piece."

Simon Kelner in the Independent: "What kind of country is this? Are we so constrained by vested interests that free speech, which includes the freedom to offend, is now constrained? Does the Twitter mob now set the rules on fair comment? In a statement, the editor of The Observer said his paper 'prides itself on... airing challenging views'. True. He ends by saying: 'On this occasion we got it wrong'. Surely some mistake. That should be: 'On this occasion we got it right'."

Roy Greenslade in the London Evening Standard: "Why do editors hire Julie Burchill to write columns? The obvious answer is that she provokes the audience like no other columnist. She is the iconoclast’s iconoclast. She does controversy without taking breath. It’s in her DNA."

Suzanne Moore in the Guardian: "If Lynne Featherstone can call for a journalist and an editor to be sacked, this does not bode well for having politicians and lawyers running the press, does it? Do you actually want to be governed by humourless, authoritarian morons? Don't answer that, I may be offended. You don't commission someone like Julie Burchill to launch an Exocet missile and then say: 'Oh dear, we only really wanted a sparkler.' You cannot unpublish something any more because of the internet, something that Lord Justice Leveson failed to get his considerable head round."

Richard Littlejohn in the Mail: "If newspapers start firing columnists for making ‘offensive’ remarks, where will it all end?"

Observer readers' editor Stephen Pritchard on Comment Is Free: "Freedom of expression means nothing if gratuitous insults mask the very message that is being conveyed. In publishing those insults, the Observer fell below the standards it expects others to uphold. There was no other option but to withdraw the piece and apologise."

The Guardian's new northern editor Helen Pidd interviewed on Prolific North: “I had a meeting with Alan Rusbridger and asked him whether he honestly cared about the north, especially with the Guardian expanding so much into America. He did admit some responsibility for the London-centricity but said that it was not all his fault as the amount of news coming out of London has also grown. He did admit though that we have neglected the north, and in a happier financial situation the Guardian would start rebuilding its Manchester office, like The Sun has.”

The Earl of Caithness, speaking in the House of Lords about press coverage after the suicide of his wife, as reported by MediaGuardian: "We wanted privacy but some of the press wanted a story, the more salacious the better. When a fact or a truth emerged, that was ignored. But can they be blamed for that? That was an remains their job, to get a story. Some people and their children will continue to get unnecessarily hurt in the future, but that, my lords, is a price we must pay for as free a press as possible."

Brian Reade in the Mirror: "Over the years I’ve seen foreign politicians, ­sportsmen and actors ­visibly stunned at the ­directness and ­perseverance of British journalists. Look at the way FIFA, the IOC, MEPs and US ­Republicans detest us...It’s why, for all our faults, the British media holds those in ­power to account more stringently than in any other country. Why, as we debate the proposals of the Leveson Report, many ­powerful people want our journalists neutered by law. Why the Hugh Grants of this world want ­Parliament to do a Tarantino, and shut our butts down. Because, like those Hollywood publicists, they don’t believe we have any right to go for the jugular and ask the awkward questions."

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