Monday, 13 August 2012

'Somewhat tainted'

In early July, Dominique Jackson wrote a blogpost about unemployed graduates for the MailOnline's RightMinds.

It included this paragraph:

The German slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frei' is somewhat tainted by its connection with Nazi concentration camps, but its essential message, 'work sets you free' still has something serious to commend it. There is dignity to be gained from any job, no matter how menial, and for young people at the start of their careers, there are valuable lessons to be learned from any form of employment, whether that is on the factory floor, on a supermarket till or in the contemporary hard labour camp of a merchant bank or law office.

There was some discussion of this at the Mailwatch Forum at the time, but otherwise there was little comment.

Today, the New Statesman's Alex Hern wrote about Jackson's article. Not long after, the paragraph suddenly vanished from the original.

Jackson tweeted:

I personally asked ed at Mail to amend offending par (for which I've apologised) following extraordinary personal abuse. 

She also said it was:

a stupid, thoughtless, inappropriate reference written in haste.

Needless to say, the MailOnline hasn't acknowledge the edit, although, as Roy Greenslade points out, several comments remain on the article that refer to the use of 'Arbeit Macht Frei'.

It is notable that no one at MailOnline seems to have raised any concern about it - not even Jackson - until today, nearly six weeks after it was published, and only then after it was highlighted by the New Statesman (and then Twitter).

It is reminiscent of the case of Rick Dewsbury, whose RightMinds comments about mixed-race families led to a storm of criticism that resulted in his article being edited, then removed. That was just two weeks ago.

At the end of June, Allan Mallinson wrote a RightMinds post about homelessness among ex-servicemen, which originally claimed:

all the civilian shelters were full of Somalis and Poles.

MailOnline later amended this sentence, and a couple of other points in the article, following several complaints. While the latter changes were acknowledged, the former was not.

And in April 2012, another RightMinds post caused some controversy. Alexander Boot wrote that homosexuality was an 'aberration'. After much critical comment and the establishment of a Facebook group, the article vanished from MailOnline, although remains on Boot's personal website. Boot stopped blogging for MailOnline in May.

Are these contentious posts being published simply to attract visitors? The swift deletions in the Boot and Dewsbury cases suggest this may not always be the case. So is there a problem with the editorial process at RightMinds?

In response to a complaint about the Boot piece, Mail Group Managing Editor Alex Bannister told a complainant:

By way of background, I should further point out that blogs are stream-of-consciousness opinion pieces by freelance writers and are not subject to the same level of editorial scrutiny as other published articles which are either commissioned or written by staff members.

By contrast, bloggers are given free rein to express their opinions without fear or favour and are encouraged to write freely to stir up and spark debate. While these opinions may occasionally give rise to offence, we usually take the position that this is preferable to the aggressive censorship of their contributions.

Nevertheless, with regard to this particular item, we quickly came to the view that it was better to remove it which we did in April shortly after it was published.

A response by MailOnline Deputy Publisher Pete Picton to complaints about the Dewsbury case follows a similar line:

Blogs on the Right Minds site are where writers can voice opinions and comment on the current issues of today. As they are blogs, by the their nature, they are the views of the individual writer concerned and not necessarily those of the Daily Mail or Mail Online.

However, we have taken comments about this blog very seriously. On reflection, the Right Minds editor decided – as is his prerogative - to remove the blog post from the channel. We always welcome feedback-whether positive or negative-and we recognise that controversial views can elicit a strong response. We appreciate you taking the time to get in touch and passing on your thoughts about the item.

Dominique Jackson blogged about writing for MailOnline in June. She said:

When I first started the blog, RightMinds was brand new and in desperate need of fresh and regular content, ideally from someone with a female picture byline. In the main, RM is a fairly reactionary, political comment website but they recognised the need for a little leaven, which I was duly asked to provide.

So I get asked to tackle what are more usually termed the soft stories: social policy; elderly care; adoption; unemployed graduates; dementia research; dog rescue stories. I fulfil a very simple function. It allows the RM editorial team to go into the Mail conference explaining that they have already got it covered. By the way, all opinions are my own. I never, ever get a Daily Mail steer.

I am really just a kind of human sausage machine, sucking up the subject, cooking up 400-800 words of hopefully coherent comment and opinion and, within an hour or so, pressing send to shoot it off into the ether for an eventual slot on the website. It’s more or less what all the other Polly Fillers and Phil Spaces do. Nobody needs to read it and I suspect that hardly anyone, apart from a few of my old school friends, even bothers.

She was less than complimentary, but quite accurate, about MailOnline which:

traditionally garners its obscene quantity of hits by printing all manner of celebrity twaddle, invariably accompanied by prurient, all but pornographic images of C-list TV presenters, footballers' wives and ersatz pop stars.

Despite the fact she tweeted a link to this today, it has now vanished from her blog too. Perhaps that's not much of a surprise, given its title ('Six Months As A Sausage Machine: My Mail Online Blogging Hell') and the fact she was still writing for RightMinds just a few days ago.

1 comment:

  1. Onjectionable as these opinions are, surely the real story is the Daily Mail's cowardice. If they have the balls to print them they should have the balls to stand by them when called out.


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