Let us be clear: this is not a fight between 'old' and 'new' media. This not about blogger vengeance or a mob mentality wanting to lay in to print media. This is about journalistic integrity, immorality, and a few unethical hacks desperate to make their mark in the newspaper industry.
The digital age has given people access to instant information, interactive feedback, and the freedom to reply, so the vast, angry, Internet response to The Sunday Times outing me, and, indeed, last week's outing of fellow anonymous blogger Night Jack, by sister paper The Times was not a bloggers vs. journalists battle. Instead, it was simply a reaction of disgust that journalistic standards have sunk so low: is this what 'news' reporting has come to? The journalist who outed me has now justified doing so by stating my anonymity was a "marketing gimmick"; this just smacks of pathetic desperation. My writing a sexblog and book was hardly newsworthy - it's not like I was writing about anything criminal, or shagging a politician - and my being anonymous for almost three years, until I was outed, doesn't support this supposed pre-meditated book-selling ploy.
I had my reasons for wanting to remain anonymous, as all anon bloggers do, and did everything in my power to remain so; sadly that wasn't enough for this keen journalist, eager to get her foot on the quality journalistic ladder.
Ethical and moral questions need to be asked when it comes to undermining people's privacy, revealing their identities, and exposing sources. It doesn't keep bloggers in check, by outing the odd one or two; instead it just shows the hypocrisy of some journalists, so keen to protect their own sources. But, more importantly, it undermines the little confidence the public have left in the press, and it is this, inevitably, that will impact journalism in the long term.
If you're going to be a newsgatherer, I believe you have certain choices to make: ones which will affect your career, but also your conscience. You may feel you can justify writing something which hugely impacts another's life because they deserve it in some way; you may feel you can justify your underhand tactics in obtaining a scoop; you may even feel you can justify your immoral behaviour afterwards, by arguing that people have been mean to you. But you reap what you sow: be prepared to take the dirt you've chosen to dish out.
If you can't hack it, don't write it.
from Anna Mikhailova mikhailova.anna@[redacted] to firstname.lastname@example.org date Fri, Aug 4, 2006 at 4:07 PM subject FAO Zoe Margolis
I am a freelance journalist and am writing a story about you and your identity as Abby Lee, the author of the recently released 'Girl With a One Track Mind'. I would like to speak to you so that you can put forward your side of the story, and I hope that you will cooperate with me. I have a photo of you, which would accompany the piece, however it is not a very good photo, particularly considering Abby's image, and I'm sure you would prefer to have one taken in a professional studio, at an angle of your wish, all of which could be arranged.
My mobile number is 079[redacted]. I look forward to hearing from you soon,
from Anna Mikhailova mikhailova.anna@[redacted] to email@example.com date Fri, Aug 4, 2006 at 6:45 PM subject photo
Following on from my earlier message, this is the photo that I propose to be used alongside my article. As I said earlier, it would be possible to arrange a professional shot in a studio, which would be more appropriate for the persona of Abby Lee. I await your response,
from Anna Mikhailova mikhailova.anna@[redacted] to firstname.lastname@example.org date Fri, Aug 4, 2006 at 7:48 PM subject FAO Zoe Margolis
I have decided to offer the story to The Sunday Times, having done some work for them over the summer and because they serialised your book not so long ago. The News Desk has expressed an interest and is planning to run the story this Sunday. I have sent over my copy and the photo I have of you. The picture shows that you are wearing a Tshirt with the words 'Safe but not Clean' on it. I am trying to do this in the most friendly and responsible way I can. If you wish to influence the copy and the photographic content of the piece, do please get in touch with me this evening. I am planning to leave my computer in the next hour, so please call me on my mobile as soon as you can.
Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you,
from Anna Mikhailova mikhailova.anna@[redacted] to email@example.com date Fri, Aug 4, 2006 at 8:48 PM subject FAO Zoe Margolis - photo
Just some more details about the photo - The Sunday Times said they will provide their most senior portrait photographer, Francesco Guidicini, who does the shoots of all the stars and is the personal photographer to Jemima Khan, to take the new photos of you. They can also arrange a car to pick you up tomorrow, and everything else at your convenience. I assume you would want to do your own make up and choice of outfit, however they said they could arrange this as well, since they want the photos to be as sexy and elegant as possible. They said the shoot would need to take place at around 10 in the morning tomorrow. Therefore do let me know what your decision is.
If you agree to cooperate by coming to the studio tomorrow morning, the News Editor told me that he is prepared to give you written assurance about which photos will or will not be used to accompany my piece. Therefore, if we do get a new photo taken with your cooperation, then it will be used in place of the one I sent you earlier.
I look forward to hearing from you,
from Hellen, Nicholas nicholas.hellen@[redacted] to firstname.lastname@example.org date Sat, Aug 5, 2006 at 12:08 PM subject FW: Sunday Times news story - urgent
Dear Miss [my name],
We intend to publish a prominent news story in this weekend's paper, revealing your identity as the author of the book, Girl With a One Track Mind.
We have matched up the dates of films you have worked on - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Batman Begins and Lara Croft Tomb Raider - and it is clear that they correlate to your blog. We have obtained your birth certificate, and details about where you went to school and college.
We propose to publish the fact that you are 33 and live in [my address] -London, and that your mother, [her name], is a [her address] -based [her profession]. The article includes extracts from your book and blog, relevant to your career in the film industry. We also have a picture of you, taken outside your flat.
Unfortunately, the picture is not particularly flattering and might undermine the image that has been built up around your persona as Abby Lee. I think it would be helpful to both sides if you agreed to a photo shoot today so that we can publish a more attractive image.
We are proposing to assign you our senior portrait photographer, Francesco Guidicini, and would arrange everything to your convenience, including a car to pick you up. We would expect you to provide your own clothes and make up. As the story will be on a colour page, we would prefer the outfit to be one of colourful eveningwear.
We did put this proposal to you yesterday, but heard nothing back. Clearly this is now a matter of urgency, and I would appreciate you contacting me as soon as possible. To avoid any doubt we will, of course, publish the story as it is if we do not hear from you.