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Helen Skelton quits twitter – begs the question ‘what is fair criticism?’

Blue Peter host Helen Skelton has quit twitter this week after what we assume is negative reaction to her part of the BBC Olympics coverage. The 29 year-old has been out and about in the Olympic Park doing vox-pop type segments that have to be honest not been great. Having done vox-pops I know how evil they are and whether it was her or just the vox-pop concept that I dislike – these pieces aren’t working.

Now we don’t know exactly what sparked her to leave the microblogging site. Whether she got some personal hate or just received criticism for her part of the coverage. She signed off just saying, “Turns out I don’t have very thick skin after all so I am closing my twitter account. Enjoy the games. Signing off, skelts x” which doesn’t really answer that question.

There is a distinct difference between legitimate criticism and personal insults. We don’t know the situation here. The abuse Tom Daley received was personal and vile and that just isn’t on. In this case though we are unclear of what sparked her decision to move on from twitter.

For example some might think that my first paragraph in this blog was unfair. Is it unfair to say that I don’t think someone is doing a very good job on TV? I have had people tell me that they don’t like my blog or my radio shows. Is that unfair or is that just personal opinion? Surely we are all still allowed opinions are we not?

Graham Linehan weighed in on the issue tweeting, “Another one down. This is why we can’t have nice things.” However he has said this not knowing exactly what spurred the TV presenter to leave twitter. Is twitter now a place where no negativity is allowed? If Nigel Farage tweeted that UKIP were the third party of British politics even though they don’t have an MP are we not allowed to ridicule him?

We don’t know the full story behind this. Miss Skelton has chosen not to divulge that information and that is her right. If she got personal abuse then no shock that she quit twitter. If she just got criticism then it is just one of those things and it is indeed her right to close twitter. If you have a thin skin and are on TV then twitter probably isn’t the place for you. Maybe one day we’ll find out.

Twitter can still have criticism but personal abuse is a different kettle of fish entirely. If we can’t criticise people then what is twitter going to do the next time Mark Lawrenson is heard doing a football commentary? Rightly or wrongly if you have a job in the public eye then you’ll get criticism. I remember once blogging about the Channel 4 athletics coverage and their lead commentator John Rawling read it and wasn’t happy. Now we all know Ortis stunk up the joint as lead presenter and was replaced after just a few days therefore vindicating my initial reaction to the announcement. Was that fair? Was that just?

Criticism is what it is and if you are involved in the entertainment industry that is part of the job description I’m afraid. It has always been the case it is just in this era people can read the criticism much easier than people discussing it down the pub. Personal abuse is not fair or just but I don’t see the problem with having an opinion or passing on comment. I don’t think you should ever message someone on twitter saying they weren’t very good or anything but if I tweeted for example – not to her but just a general tweet, “Really not loving these Helen Skelton look-ins on the Olympic Park.” then is that fair or foul?

You tell me…

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10 Comments

  1. @Neil, @Bobo You can’t direct message anyone that dones’t follow you back, are you talking about public messages that are addressed to an individual.

    Like tweeting

    @rankersbo: You’re full of shit, with your green talk.

    instead of

    I don’t rate @rankersbo’s recent post on renewable energy.

    And Craig, I agree people can be thin skinned and the police getting involved over hurtful comments is wrong. But freedom of speech includes the freedom of reply, and you don’t give up that right by becoming well known.

    As I said above, there is a difference between criticism and abuse, and it’s largely down to tone of expression. I have to say if someone expressed a negative comment in the sort of tone you used, I would support anyone objecting to the way you criticised them.

  2. @Neil, @Bobo You can’t direct message anyone that dones’t follow you back, are you talking about public messages that are addressed to an individual.

    Like tweeting

    @rankersbo: You’re full of shit, with your green talk.

    instead of

    I don’t rate @rankersbo’s recent post on renewable energy.</blockquote.

    And Craig, I agree people can be thin skinned and the police getting involved over hurtful comments is wrong. But freedom of speech includes the freedom of reply, and you don't give up that right by becoming well known.

    As I said above, there is a difference between criticism and abuse, and it's largely down to tone of expression. I have to say if someone expressed a negative comment in the sort of tone you used, I would support anyone objecting to the way you criticised them.

  3. I am sick and tired of celebrities complaining about Internet abuse.
    If you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.
    If a person receives death threats or violent intimidation that is a criminal matter, which needs to be taken seriously and investigated.However when the police are called in and the story becomes a cause célèbre after some spiteful comments about a dead father or a persons ability to present a tv programme you know it’s all become too ridiculous for words.
    To the celebs and indeed to all of those people out there who are “victims” of trolling I suggest using the block feature, and grow a thicker skin. Oh and Helen, you mad bro?

  4. Bobo Bobo

    The problem as I see it is that once upon a time is people who would speak before thinking and say mean and hurtful things were restricted to voicing these opinions to their mates down the pub where their comments might be appreciated but would go no further. However as the internet has reached the masses and delivery vehicles such as twitter and facebook have come about then those people are able to take it a stage further. Criticism is a daily fact of life, it all depends on how it is delivered. Constructive is the word that comes to mind.

  5. Chris Chris

    I think there is a difference between criticising someone and directly messaging them the criticism.

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      I think this is what I was saying. However if someone does a twitter search for their name…

  6. I don’t disagree. As you rightly observe, we don’t know whether Skelton quit because she couldn’t cope with fair, but negative, comment or because people put their criticism in abusive terms.

    My point was that some people think they are just expressing an opinion when they dish out abuse

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      Ah I see. Yes there is a difference between the two and some people don’t know where that line is. I’ve always found that abuse is personal and I try to at least explain why I give out criticism. i.e. Jonathan Legard on F1 was lazy and cliché, Lawrenson on football commentator is too sarcastic. That is the type of thing I think is fair. Just saying someone is shit without qualifying it is not on.

  7. I mentioned this on Andrew Hickey’s blog: some people can’t differentiate between what is said and the way it is said.

    For them there is no difference between expressing a negative opinion and abuse, because everything is unpleasantly lairy or over-emotive.

    To these people, expressing yourself nicely, like an adult is not nice, but somehow rude, condescending or at the very least stuffy.

    • neilmonnery neilmonnery

      The thing is we all get criticism and we all give criticism whether it is about a friends new hair cut or the way a colleague makes tea/coffee – whatever. We all get it in everyday life. Yes personal insults are not on but fair comment is fair.

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