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Observer: 'Collective failure of editing' led to publication of offensive Julie Burchill transexuals piece

 

The Observer has blamed a  “collective failure of editing” for publishing a column last week which was widely seen as being extremely offensive to transsexuals and others.

Last week Observer editor John Mulholland decided to withdraw the piece, headlined 'Transexuals should cut it out', from the website Guardian.co.uk.

Mulholland told the paper’s readers’ editor Stephen Pritchard:

The idea that I would compound a mistake by continuing to publish the piece online is absurd. It follows that if you make a mistake, you try to correct it. I had to do what I could to address this error. Protestations about censorship were irrelevant. It was not a complicated decision to make. The responsibility I had was to try to make amends to a group of people we had needlessly and mistakenly offended. I had no responsibility for, or interest in, the sanctimony of other news organisations.

It has been noted that Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger is also editor-in-chief of The Observer. But Pritchard said: "while both papers share the same digital platform they are edited separately".

Pritchard said in his column this week:

A collective failure of editing led to this piece appearing in the form that it did. "We will scrutinise further the manner in which this process needs improving," said the editor.

Several senior staffers saw the piece before it appeared and could have urged wider discussion on the impact of the piece. I include myself in this; I saw the piece when it arrived on Saturday morning but hesitated to suggest changes (my role as readers' editor is not to intervene in advance of publication). That's something I now regret.

The Observer has said that "discussions with representatives from the trans community will take place over the coming weeks. These discussions will be an opportunity to listen and also to debate the issues raised by this incident. A lesson has been learned."

Despite the outrage generated by the article, it has been republished in full by The Telegraph.

 

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