Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Challenging the Daily Mail

No Sleep 'Til Brooklands has published an interesting guest post by Juliet Shaw. She explains how she challenged the Daily Mail over an article that:

...made me a laughing stock. I earned a reputation within my community for being a fantasist and a liar, and spent the next two years learning the intricacies of the laws of defamation and in order to try and salvage what was left of my reputation.

She was forced into taking legal action when her original complaint to the Mail was met with a familiar, dismissive tone:

Obviously, I wrote to complain. They responded that they were happy the article was an accurate reflection of what I’d said and were standing by it. I wrote again, pointing out in detail the discrepancies. Again, they stood by their article and told me that they would not enter into any further correspondence with me and considered the matter closed.

I certainly didn’t consider the matter closed. My name, image and brief details of my life had been used to fabricate a story which bore no resemblance to me or my life, then presented as fact, said by me, in my own words. It was damaging to me, my children, my friends and had a significantly negative impact on my life.

It's a lengthy post but well worth reading, especially for her line-by-line breakdown of the way the article was embellished and the attitude and tactics of the Mail when challenged.

And, as Paul Bradshaw points out, several of the comments below the article reveal similar experiences.


  1. A very good read, People shouldn't be scared to take on newspapers and it's good that Juliet did.

    The scum at the mail had nothing at all to benefit from distorting and fabricating her story...not a single thing. She wasn't some celeb on thier hit list, she wasn't some politician they were tyring to oust, she was just a self made business woman and a mother living her life who did them a favour by contributing to what she was told was a harmless lifestyle article.

    Surely no one can side with the Mail on this one...So what possible reason did they have to act the way they did?

  2. Has anyone checked the veracity of the blog? Googling for Tugendhat + "Juliet Shaw" reveals nothing else on the web about it. Far from conclusive but it's making me wonder.

  3. Why do they even bother finding real people to interview and then misrepresent? When making it up completly would be just as real and involve less effort?!

  4. What baffles me about the Mail is the number of people who know that it is a hateful, digusting piece of filth, and yet still buy it. Even "Mail reader Elaine", who says:

    "I am appalled that this happened to you and well done for your tenacity and determination to right the wrong done to you. "

    Also says:

    "I won't stop reading it as it is a habit "

    Seriously, do they put some form of addictive ink that compels people to read it and be outraged? Why?

  5. I have no objection to the fact that the Mail was well and truly out of order in the manner to which it misrepresented Ms. Shaw's situation. However, the piece itself was light-hearted enough. It wasn't as if they decribed her as woman who ate her own babies and had sex with animals.

    I find accusations of defamation and a annihalation of a reputation (whatever that was in the first place) etc etc, a bit melodramatic. Notwithstanding the Mail's shoddy treatment, I think Ms. Shaw has over-egged this pudding with a bit too much righteous indignation.

  6. I can assure you it happened! I still have the original print article, and a box full of files from the hearing. If anyone doubts the veracity of my post, please feel free to email me (address is on my website, easily found) and I will happily validate it.

  7. So it's ok for a paper to fabricate someones life story, misquote them and force them into a photoshoot...as long as it's for a "light hearted" article?

  8. No, of course not, I never said it was. In fact, I think I said, or at least inferred, explicitly that it wasn't.

    I've been around PR for a fair while, as was Ms. Shaw, and not only was (is) the industry a real bear pit, where one would get defamed and slandered on a daily basis, but I can't believe Ms.Shaw had no idea the Mail wasn't the arse-paper that we all know it to be, even back in 2003. Naivete and Stupidity? I'd say both, although stupidity is being a bit hard on yourself!

    MIsquoted, ok. Fabricated, ok - but from what I can see on Brookland's article, none of this falls into the breast-beating 'it ruined my life' category, especially for someone who worked in PR anyway. Had it happened to me, I'd laugh it off as a mere trifle. And I'd certainly have better things to do than push myself to exhaustion for years in order to prove that I'd never actually sat on a hay bale, I'd never been asked out by a horny farmer and (gasp) I'd never claimed the beach as private.

    Know what I mean? Fair play for Ms.Shaw to take on the Mail, but I'd consider it a pyrrhic victory, all things considered.

  9. Thanks for sharing your story Juliet, too many people having been misrepresented by the media try to put it behind them, but by raising awareness of the problem you may save other potential victims from falling into their trap.

    Whether Juliet should have known better, or whether she should have had thicker skin to be in the industry she was in, is completely beside the point.

    The point is that a national newspaper is deliberately spreading lies about ordinary people who have done nothing wrong, simply to keep their readers "entertained" and the publishers bank balance full.

    Advertisers spend thousands on newspaper advertising - because it makes people buy their product. If even the adverts have that much power over their readership, then we should not underestimate the damage that lies in the editorial can do to people.

    Nobody should be under the illusion that this is somehow an isolated case, or is unique to the mail, this is an area I've been following since the 80s, and I've encountered ordinary people time and again who practically the entire spectrum of papers have got to give them an interview under false pretences, or come posing as "wanting to help" when all they want to do is a hatchet job on their unsuspecting victim.

    Having got over the shock of seeing how the paper twisted their words, they then get the 2nd bombshell that sueing them (which I beleive in such a clear cut case should be automatic and without cost) is beyond mere mortals budgets and no legal aid is available.

    The lawyer threatening their victim with losing their home about sums it up.

    Whether or not the accuracy of this story matters, the point is, are we supposed to believe that having fabricated this story that they are scrupulous in their reporting of issues of serious national importance? I for one do not, and they abuse their "freedom of the press" and "publics right to know" mantra.

    It's time all this was exposed, it's just a shame that no newspaper would ever blow the whistle - because they are all at it! And all the succesful facebook campaigns have PR agencies behind them.

    If the press appologisers wake up and we all stick together though, perhaps one day people will realise what the simple act of buying a paper is actually funding.

  10. I'm aware that newspapers chose their angles, pick their stories and their facts according to their own agenda. Reporters have their dirty tricks, they misquote, use dodgy sources, take things out of context, pejoratively paraphrase, and incompetently get their facts wrong... All that is bad enough.

    But totally making stuff up- that's something else. Isn't it? Am I stupid and nieve to think that?

    And no I don't like the Mail, but it wouldn't be acceptable if this were a hatchet job in the Guardian, Independent or Times either.

    And to me the fact this is a light-hearted lifestyle piece, rather than a hard hitting news story makes this worse not better. What purpose is gained by sending someone up, for a flimsy piece of drivel? Why not tell the truth? It's not exactly the front page is it?

    By the way I don't want newspapers making stuff up about people in the public eye either- I understand this sort of stuff comes with the territory if you're well known, but that only makes it less heinous, it doesn't make it OK.

    And why on earth is an apology so hard to get? Why do these papers resist admitting they were wrong.

    I don't believe all the press are this bad. While they all get up to their tricks, I think there is a scale of the severity of press dishonesty. I don't think the rot being spread across the press makes specific instances like this no big deal. Multiple wrongs do not make a right.


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