Tag Archives: Melanie Schregardus

Sources fight back: fabrication, complaints, and the Daily Mail

Juliet Shaw writes in a guest post on No Sleep ‘Til Brooklands about her experience of fighting The Daily Mail through the courts after they published an apparently fabricated article (her dissection of the article and its fictions is both painstaking and painful).

There is no happy ending, but there are almost 100 comments. And once again you are struck by the power of sources to tell their side of the story. For Juliet Shaw you could just as well read Melanie Schregardus, or the Dunblane Facebook Group.

Among the comments is Mail reader Elaine, who says

“I have always taken their stance and opinions with a large doze of salt. It will be even larger now. Thank goodness for the internet – as a balance to the Mail I can access the Guardian and the Independent to see their take on a particular world/UK event.”

But also in the comments are others who say they have suffered from being the subject of fabricated articles in the Mail – first Catherine Hughes:

“The article was so damaging to my freelance career that editors I was working with now no longer answer my emails. ‘Heartbroken, devastated and gutted’ doesn’t even come close to how I feel. It happened in September and I am still distraught.”

Then Pomona:

“[I have] been a victim of the Daily Fail’s “journalism” on two occasions: once when my first marriage broke up and they printed a lurid and utterly innaccurate story about me (I’m no celeb, just Jo Public), and more recently when one of their journalists lifted and printed a Facebook reply to their request for information (leaving out the bit where I told them I did not permit them to use or reprint any part of my post)”

And Anonymous:

“The Daily Mail said they were looking for a real life example of a similar case of teachers exploiting trust to complement a news story. They promised to protect my anonymity, use only a very small picture and as one of a number of case studies. A week later a double page spread – taken up mostly with a picture of me – bore the headline ‘Dear Sir, I think I Love you’. The quotes bore no resemblance to what I said and made it sound like I liked the teacher?! Instead of what really happened – a drunken shuffle in the back of a car and a feeling of abuse of trust and sadness the next day.”

Jon Morgan:

“When the article was published, my role as welfare officer was never mentioned, the average overdraft had become *my* overdraft, and I was apparently on the verge of jacking in my studies in despair.”

Anonymous:

“I applied as a case study, the photoshoot, the invasive questions. Took months to get my expenses after dozens of ignored emails. Thankfully the article never went to print. At the time I was annoyed but now I am thankful. I also work in PR and would feel extremely uncomfortable offering anyone as a case study for a client. No matter how large the exposure.”

Dirtypj:

“I complained to the editor. He insisted that all journalists identify themselves as such every time. And that his employee had done no wrong. In short, he was calling ME a liar. And as all interviews are recorded he could prove it. I said, Okay, listen to the recording then! He replied, No, I don’t need to. I stand by my writers.”

Other comments mention similar experiences, some with other newspapers. It’s a small point, driven home over and over again: power has shifted.

Advertisements

Another newspaper that ignores copyright law – and ethics

http://podcasting.ie/docs/mos.pdf

The Irish Mail on Sunday has finally responded to complaints about a story it published this week based on the words of a blogging female air traffic controller: “The male chauvinist pigs of air traffic control” (PDF)

“Melanie Schregardus,” the article says, “claims she was forced to endure a torrent of sexist abuse when she and a handful of colleagues first broke into [the] profession”, and the rest of the article continues in the same vein.

The publication of the article understandably caused Melanie some distress. She wrote:

“In the middle of an incredibly trying time for my colleagues, an article has appeared in a Sunday Newspaper that says I feel abused by the people I work with. It gives me opinions that I do not have, and uses words I have never said. It does so to attack my profession, impugn my employers, and portray me as a victim of my friends.

“I feel sick. Any future employer could fairly read what Luke Byrne has written about me and conclude that I am a disloyal, untrustworthy person. The people I work with today could, and probably have, read it and decided that I am not on their side, and that I think that they are sexist, nasty, bullies. None of this is true.

In fact, she deleted her blog, before realising that, without it, there would be no record of her actual words. So she then started a new blog, with the post quoted above. Apart from her complaints about misrepresentation, and that she was never contacted about the story, she also wonders how the newspaper was able to publish a photograph of her without permission (see comments for more on this aspect). And she has complained to the ombudsman. This is where the Irish Mail’s response comes in.

The Irish Mail responds: ‘She was asking for it, mate’

Now at this point The Irish Mail could have protected its brand and claimed this was just one rogue journalist without a sub editor to keep them in check.

Instead, they have decided to dig themselves in deeper, saying:

“The photograph of Mrs Schregardus which we published to accompany this article came from Page 36 of this online magazine http://issuu.com/connors-bevalot/docs/publication1_-destress

“Like Mrs Schregardus’s blog, it had been put into the public domain by Mrs Schregardus herself.”

Of course, being in the public domain has no relevance to copyright. A published newspaper is ‘in the public domain’, but that doesn’t mean anyone is free to copy images from it without paying or crediting the copyright holder. You’d think newspapers would know this.

As for not contacting Mrs Schregardus, they provide an insight into the rigorous journalism practised in their newsroom:

“On Thursday, January 21, Luke Byrne [the reporter] attempted to contact Mrs Schregardus by Twitter (the only contact details he had) and asked her for an interview. On Friday, January 22, Mrs Schregardus replied. She informed Mr Byrne that she had sought permission from her trade union to speak to us. He awaited further contact from her, but he did not hear from Mrs Schregardus again. Either she chose not to speak to him or her union refused her permission to do so.”

So here we have the relentless reporter who will leave no stone unturned in his search for… hold on. “Oh, she didn’t tweet back. Well, I guess I’ve done all I could then.”

Luke Byrne's tweets to Melanie Schregardus

And finally, the misrepresentation. Incredibly, the newspaper claims

“The Irish Mail on Sunday did not attribute to Mrs Schregardus the view that her colleagues were sexist”

So that line saying that she “claims she was forced to endure a torrent of sexist abuse”?

Or the one that reveals “She went on to say that the representation of women didn’t seem to have changed much”?

Or that “She revealed that she endured one of the most pervasive forms of workplace sexism”.

Silly words. They do have an awful habit of arranging themselves in the most unusual sentences.

Same old story, different context

Of course it’s nothing new for a Sunday newspaper to take quotes out of context. Normally that someone is a public figure, and the journalist can argue that it comes with the territory. In The Irish Mail on Sunday’s response you can detect the same theme: she “published on an internet blog that was open to millions of people around the world to read,” they say.

That’s true, and some will say Mrs Schregardus should have been more cautious. I think that’s expecting a level of cynicism that we wouldn’t like to see in the average air traffic controller, but that’s a conversation for another blog post. In the meantime, it’s worth pointing out (aside from the, you know, ruining-a-person’s-life-for-a-story aspect) the long-term effects of an event like this.

Firstly, there’s the effect on the newspaper brand and journalism as a whole. Schregardus outlines how her own opinion (and now, you would expect, those of her readers) has changed as a result:

“I’m sure this happens to other people all the time. Probably people who are far more famous than me. I’ve probably read and formed opinions of other people based on things that are just not true. I’ve probably talked about other people’s lives based on things I’ve read that were hurtful to them.”

Secondly, there’s the effect on workblogging more broadly. We’ve already seen the prize-winning writings of police blogger Nightjack deleted after he was unmasked by The Times, and it’s fair to say that it’s going to be more helpful to journalists to encourage workblogging than to shop their authors – or misrepresent them – to their employers.

Because when the workblogs have gone what will you do? Pick up the phone? Luke Byrne may struggle with that.