5 reasons I can’t get myself worked up about that Gawker MailOnline piece

Gawker have published an interesting article about what it is like to work for the MailOnline in the US – “My Year Ripping Off the Web with the Daily Mail Online

It’s getting retweeted a lot in my timeline but I found myself strangely unable to get vexed up about it all. It seemed to me that a chunk of the complaints or gripes in the article come down to things that are pretty standard media tropes…

1: “They sexed up my headline”

Junior writers have been irritated by senior staff or subs rewriting their headlines since the dawn of time. It used to happen to me at the Guardian all the time, where the headline on your opinion piece would become more certain and strident or controversial on publication, and I’d spend hours in the comments being forced to defend some kind of assertion I hadn’t really made.

And newspapers have been sexing up headlines since the 1860s – Iraq able to bomb British bases in Cyprus with WMD within 45 minutes on front pages anybody?

2: A senior manager was annoyed at having to pull/correct an article

Gawker’s writer is annoyed that a senior member of Mail staff apparently calls Clooney a “liar” after having to withdraw a story involving him. I don’t know the details of the story or the settlement, but I’ve been in plenty of situations where you have a story that you know is fundamentally true, and where the person it is about is using legal means to shut it down and you are pretty certain they are lying to their lawyer.

It happens.

It happens sometimes a lot with particular celebrities and sportspeople.

I have a list if you are interested…

3: Stuff gets changed on the internet without people drawing attention to the fact they’ve made mistakes

I refer the right honourable gentleman to the previous 200 years of the news industry going “Oh well, it was in yesterday’s paper…” and ignoring mistakes.

Plus taking something down immediately is usually an attempt at a sign of good faith if you think there is a possibility there is going to be legal action over a story.

4: Taylor Swift lesbian hoo-haa

One of the things cited in the article is the Mail publishing and then sticking down the memory-hole an article pondering whether Taylor Swift might be a lesbian.

One of the related links on Gawker’s piece is…their re-hash of the Mail’s Taylor Swift lesbian story under the guise of “Wow, why did they report this? Here clicky-clicky Taylor Swift lesbian rumour SEO”.

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I tend to warn young journalists that when it comes to criticising other media outlets, they are pretty much always spending their days in glasshouses armed only with stones.

5: They keep nicking people’s stuff without linking or attributing

“Sky sources… learn”

“The BBC understands…”

“In a magazine article person x says…”

Linking and attribution on news websites has been dreadful for years. Since news started going online. And it’s only made worse by organisations being really cagey about links because of Google’s SEO justice warriors threatening you with punishment if you are not doing it according to Google’s rules. MailOnline is a massive content factory, sure, but there are thousands of others out there.

But maybe it’s just a personal thing. The Mail are not on my radar for consistently ripping off my stories or project ideas *narrows eyes in other directions*

Anyway, that’s my unpopular opinion and I’m sticking to it…