Recognise that sometimes, ‘they’ might have a point.
Jeremy Kyle and Danny Baker found themselves in the news recently.
Baker for an idiotic Tweet, interpreted by many as racist, and Kyle paid the price because of a perceived lack of duty of care from the makers of the programme he presented towards the participants. Whether there ever was a lack of duty of care will all come out in the investigation which ITV says is underway.
Are they architects of their own demise or unfortunate to be caught up in politically correct backlash (Baker) or an extreme tragedy that no-one could have foreseen (Kyle)?
For me, they’re both guilty of a serous failing – they didn’t read the changing public mood.
Jeremy Kyle has been on borrowed time for at least 10 years. His show receives large audiences but don’t mistake that for popularity. It’s crude, rude and in many people’s view exploits real-life tragedy for the purposes of entertainment.
Like Jerry Springer years before, The Jeremy Kyle Show had its place but it has long overstayed its welcome. As a professional broadcaster, he should have understood that and either moved on or made changes, years ago. We look back at sitcoms from the 70s and cringe at the attitudes society once found entertaining. We’re already doing the same with clips of Kyle. The truly great media producers recognise that and take action before their hand is forced. See Vince McMahon at WWE and Howard Stern for examples of those who got it right, however much you may dislike their style.
Danny Baker has made a career out of being an extremely smart guy playing the role of making it up as he goes along. If we take him at his word and accept that there was no intent behind the racism implied in the Tweet and that, as he put it, his mind is ‘not diseased’ then he’s at best woefully out of touch. And broadcasters who are woefully out of touch should not be hosting programmes on national radio.
Baker’s original apology, if one can call it that, made matters worse for him. The advice I’d give anyone caught up in a similar storm is to simply say ‘sorry’ and absolutely nothing else. Don’t attempt to explain it, don’t justify it or put forward mitigating circumstances, or insist that’s not what you meant…just say sorry and then spend some time out of the spotlight reflecting and learning. You might come to some interesting conclusions about yourself and be able to make some positive changes. Most people who find themselves in Baker’s position craft apologies at a time when they’re in damage limitation mode and haven’t had a chance to think. They’re saying ‘sorry’, but are they really? It often doesn’t come across like that.
I won’t say any more about Danny Baker specifically but issues like this do raise an interesting question: ‘Is it possible to be racist without intending to be?’ Another one might be: ‘Is it possible to bully someone without intending to?’ or ‘Can you be sexist without intending to be?’
I believe society has decided, in all the cases above, it is possible and when you’re the one who’s sent the Tweet or the email or the one who’s private conversation has been captured by a rogue microphone, then it isn’t you who gets to decide.