An open letter to Journalists

Dear Journalist,

I understand that at times it can be hard to find a good article, that deadlines must be met, and that you are under a lot pressure to deliver.

I also understand that the internet is chockful of content, a lot of it of good quality, and that blogs in particularly lend themselves nicely to the provision of the “human side” of the story. I understand that, really I do.

Unfortunately there seems to be a bit of an issue at the moment, with a few journalists pillaging blogs for content and the underlying view seems to be, “well, they are just blogs”. Now, I know (and I’m guilty of this in the past myself) that bloggers have always been the most forthcoming with credit when re-using your content but I think we are getting better at that and remember, just about all of us are amateurs.

That said, there really is no excuse for this sort of thing* which really doesn’t cast your profession in the best light and, even to the hobbyist blogger, spanks of shoddy work.

Like I say, I know that it’s only a few of you that are falling into this bad habit, and I guess that if you weren’t misquoting and badly researching your articles around blog stories, you’d be doing it on some other topic, but here’s the kicker.

We bloggers read each others blogs. We know them well, like old friends. We know the history, we know the personality behind the blog, so we know when all you’ve done is do a few quick searches and cobbled together a twisted view of reality.

And, really, we’d all kinda like you to stop doing that. Feel free to contact us, ask us questions, learn about who we are and why we blog, and most times we’ll be so accomodating you won’t believe it. Honest, most of us are pretty decent people just like most of you.

I hope that’s cleared things up a little,


The Hobbyist Blogger

* In this case, the editor has been contacted and the article has been reported to the Press Complaints Commission. I’d encourage you all to spread the word about this, it’s not the first time and unfortunately I doubt it’ll be the last, so the more coverage this gets (hopefully) the lower the chance of it happening to you or I.


  1. The Girl said:

    This story saddens me immensely – but doesn’t surprise me *at all*. The Daily Mail has a quite rigid agenda and no matter what they say, they will *always* spin things to fit that agenda; the hacks are mercenary like that. It’s pointless to try to put “your side of the story” over to them: you can guarantee that your words will be misinterpreted and spun in their article no matter what; the outcome is that people are misrepresented, as happened to NML. It sells papers though, so their strategy clearly works…

    There is only one solution to this and that is to NEVER, EVER speak to the Daily Mail. Not once. Not *ever*. Not even “casually” or “off the record” or for an “informal telephone chat”: these are all techniques used by them to obtain material for stories; if you communicate in any way with a journalist from there, you should expect to see your words in print. Sure, ignoring them means going without the potentially large publicity and attention that comes with their vast readership which being mentioned by them would afford, but the risk involved is not worth it – not for all the blog hits in the world.

    May 9, 2008
  2. MisssyM said:

    Grazia has taken up the (stolen) baton a bit. They have a feature on E-Venge running this week. Maybe off the back of the daily Mail story.

    To show you just how much the blogs are being scoured by journalists, I thought I’d tell you about a friend of mine whose blog did some whistleblowing on some dodgy council manoeverings over the status of Community Policemen (of which he is one).

    He had tried everything he could think of to get press attention o this issue through the established means (pres releases, letters, protests etc) and got zero press attention. But as soon as he put his livelihood in danger by blogging about it, the press were interested. He faced the sack but the message got out there. But the real story was the blogging about work, even though they masked it as a scoop about Policing (yet the scoop had been brought to their attention months before).

    I blogged about him a couple of weeks ago when it was all happening. His blog has been taken down now because he has kids to feed.

    May 9, 2008
  3. The Girl said:

    I also just wanted to add: what’s happened to NML is awful. I have total sympathy for her and hope that she manages to win compensation from those bastards. The Daily Mail really are scum.

    May 9, 2008
  4. NML said:

    Gordon, thanks for your very thoughtful post that gets to the heart of the issue. What is very clear is that certain traditional media like the Daily Mail don’t ‘get’ bloggers and have no interest in embracing what we do. Instead it’s all about cobbling stuff together and do us a disservice. I have linked to your post in mine where I’m gathering a list of posts. Thanks again x
    The Girl – Oh I wish that I had never spoken to them. I realise now that all of my efforts to ensure that this didn’t happen were totally wasted. I have seen how some of the press have reported about you and realise what a nasty bunch some can be. And now, for some reason beyond my comprehension, I find myself covered in mud. Thanks for the support x
    MissyM – That story sounds vaguely familiar and is just another example of how some press skew the motive, the message, and the version of events to fit in with their agenda. I absolutely refuse to take what they have done lying down and fortunately being self-employed, I can’t sack myself, but there are clients reading that rubbish….

    May 9, 2008
  5. Chameleon said:

    I will be including your open letter in this week’s Britblog Roundup 🙂

    May 9, 2008
  6. […] and this seems to be something the Mail excels with. I’m angry, but not ultimately surprised Gordon, to read about a particularly awful piece of journalism from this excuse for a ‘news’ […]

    May 9, 2008
  7. Hg said:

    A subject close to my heart, as you know. I saw The Girl’s piece on similar lines recently and it reminded me that I’ve rather dropped the ball regarding my own experience of copyright violation by The Scotsman. Things got busy.

    I’m past the point of caring whether or not they pay me for my efforts. In fact, given the way they’ve treated me, I don’t particularly want their money now. However, their arrogance in refusing to respond still rankles.

    Hmm, Press Complaints Commission… there’s an avenue I hadn’t considered…

    May 9, 2008
  8. I am not going to waste precious breath on the Daily Mail.

    What I will say is this: in simplistic, wide brushstroke terms – which is the way in which journalists desperately hunting around for stories now operate – blogs are equated with one thing and one thing only: ‘real life stories’.

    It makes me glad that I gave up dealing in the complexities of my ‘real life’ some years ago, to be honest.

    There is another point here: it is that *all* bloggers should be a little more worldly-wise. Even though there are millions upon millions of blogs scattered across the internet, it doesn’t stop a jouranlist from finding you. If you even think it’s remotely possible that it might happen to you, carefully consider what you might do, how you might react and what action you might take when it does.

    May 10, 2008
  9. […] draws our attention to a particularly flagrant violation of any semblance of ethical conduct in An open letter to journalists (to which we shall return in a […]

    May 12, 2008

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