Tuesday, 1 February 2011

First-hand account of the Femail sausage-factory

Yo reader(s).

I'm going to try to update this blog every day this month. There'll be a lot of waffle, and a bit of recycling from my Twitter feed, but it's about time I put myself under some deadline pressure and see what I can squeeze out.

Day 1

This is a very good guest post by Juliet Shaw, at No Sleep 'Til Brooklands. It explains, in an admirably calm way, what happened when she - to all intents and purposes an ordinary member of the public - took part in a feature for the Daily Mail, and was well and truly misused. After an interview represented as being on a far less intrusive topic, the tiniest scraps of information about her private life, grudgingly given, were inflated into an almost entirely misleading account, allegedly in her own words, which morphed her into some kind of man-hungry, delusional Liz Jones figure. Relations with the rural community she had recently moved to were understandably damaged, a simple apology was sought and denied... court battle... costs... bullying... and a settlement born of pure exhaustion was reached after two years (reimbursement of costs OR apology, but not both).
What baffles me in all of these cases is why the journalists bother to grow these hideously mutated articles from a tiny seed of truth, when making something up from scratch would be less hassle. They've clearly decided before finding interviewees what the angle will be: rather than use a real person and include just enough truth for them to be identified and have to face the consequences, why not just invent a name, hire a model for the photoshoot, not bother with the expense of bringing someone to be interviewed... and suffer absolutely no risk of a lawsuit because there's no-one to sue you?

Or are they still clinging to the idea that what they're doing is 'reporting', rather than writing fiction?

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