The MN Mail Column - what we think, and what we plan to do next...

(1002 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 16-Aug-09 00:00:59

Evening all - sorry for general absence today - niece's birthday do, packing for hol etc, etc.

So, thank you to everyone for your input on this particular issue. It's been a thought-provoking debate and clearly strong views prevail about exactly how much of a enhanced security risk publication of this column means to Mumsnetters.

We tend in broad terms to come down on the side of the risk being pretty much as it ever was fence but we also buy the argument that there is certainly an increased risk of identification/embarrassment or worse for the OP of a chosen thread - particularly if it of a very personal nature.

We would say as we always have that you should always bear in mind this is a public forum, searchable by Google, legally quotable by all and linkable to by all and sundry.

Clearly having an open forum brings with it risks but it also brings with it great benefits we've always felt. Openness means volume of users and volume of users means Mumsnet in its many guises is available to anyone who needs advice 24-7. It also means fresh faces, differing points of view and debate, and the wisdom that comes from a very big crowd - wrong or dangerous advice doesn't tend to last very long on MN.

Whether the risks outweigh the rewards for each individual only they can decide. Clearly there are basic things you can and should do to protect yourself (ie not reveal basic contact info, namechange to reveal personal stuff etc etc). And bear in mind we are always happy to delete injudicious posts - just report them if you're worried about having revealed too much.

Putting the general risk stuff to one side however, we recognise that many folk (understandably) have qualms not just about being quoted in general but being quoted by the Daily Mail in particular.

If I could just reiterate that this column was not our idea and neither did we know anything about it until it appeared. Neither the journalist involved nor anyone from the DM contacted us about running it beforehand. (And if those of you who are convinced we're lying to you about that shock keep on impugning our good name, there's nowt for it, we're going to have to sue you for libel wink).

In fact the first contact we had was this week (only after the column was brought to our attention by a Mumsnet thread about it) when I wrote to the author of the item in question - whose name we recognised as a Mumsnetter - to ask whether the Mail were planning on this being a regular thing.

At that point we, wrongly we now think having had a chat with a lawyer, didn't believe that we had any redress anyway (see endless posts about the journalistic defense of fair use) but we were, privately, a little surprised that they'd not consulted us.

Whilst we shared/share some of your misgivings about the idea of a MN-DM collaboration, I was, for sure heartened by the fact that the item was being written by a Mumsnetter who, though I don't know her personally, always seemed to be well respected by lots of Mumsnetters. I am quite sure after a couple of email exchanges with Leah Hardy, that she has/had no wish to sensationalise events on Mumsnet and that she would endeavour to protect people's identities. I'm also sure that she didn't feel she was compromising anyone's identity more than they'd already been compromised by posting on a public forum. We do think some of the comments about her have been overly harsh. After all many on here do that she's done nowt wrong in lifting quotes save perhaps for not consulting with us at HQ. That may be because she wouldn't think we could possibly object to her giving Mumsnet weekly publicity - as I've said before most websites/PRs would be in a frenzy of excitement about the Daily Mail doing a weekly column about them. But I don't know that's why, I'm just speculating. She could equally have meant to and forgotten or the dog could have eaten her email. It would be better if she'd come on to talk for herself than me blathering on - maybe she will at some point.

Whatever, we don't think that her actions deserve the general vilification/ outings/ witchunt she's received - bet there are a fair few MN journalists who would love a crack the same gig - maybe for a different publication, but still.

Anyhoo that's all history - sorry for banging on but wanted to be clear - the real question now is what next?

Well... we tend to agree with the view that it's this is not an ideal collaboration for Mumsnet - particularly as we have no editorial control over what gets chosen/ printed etc. So we plan to contact the daily mail on Monday and let them know have we feel about it. We promise to keep you posted about their response.

That's it really. Tanks again to all for your input - please don't interpret any future periods of silence as us hiding under the bed, swigging from the bottle and hoping things go away. It's much more likely to be because I'm going off on hols tomorrow and we're thin on the ground and the DM may not respond straight way but I'll aim to make some calls as soon as I'm on board ship!

ps a few more answers to some direct questions...

Someone asked about stats in response to the DM column. Our stats for thursday don't seem to show any marked influx of new people either in page impressions or new registrations

MaggieBeauLeo asked about a facility to allow members to delete their own posts - we don't think it works for a board like ours tbh - if you're catching up with a thread and the post that someone's agreeing with/taken issue with has been deleted it essentially makes a nonsense of the boards...

Someone else asked about making search for nicknames available only to those who'd paid a CAT. It's certainly a thought but we'd hate to make MN function less well for the majority unless it was for something really wanted by folk - we would welcome further thoughts.

As said we are working on private boards for particular subject groups - which would not be easily mineable for quotes or indexable by Google - they should be here in a couple of months at the latest. We'll keep you posted about their ETA and how they'll work.

StinkyFart Sun 16-Aug-09 00:04:12

Thank you Justine

have a fab holiday

LilyBolero Sun 16-Aug-09 00:04:15

Justine - thanks for that massive post(!) - can you post on the thread about private rooms?

thedailyfemale Sun 16-Aug-09 00:05:12

What stinky said

LilyBolero Sun 16-Aug-09 00:05:55

link here for the questions about private rooms

Just as a PS - do you think things would be different if it were a column in the Guardian? I am convinced the controversy is because it's the Daily Mail, rather than the privacy issue of being printed. (And I'm sure LH will be sensitive to identities!)

Aitchiswaitingforalegalopinion Sun 16-Aug-09 00:07:55

enjoy your break, justine. smile i'm sure the dm will cave immediately. wink

Aitchiswaitingforalegalopinion Sun 16-Aug-09 00:09:22

i think it's okay if it is, lily. the dm gets linked to all the time on here for it's shock pieces on female issues and females themselves.

LilyBolero Sun 16-Aug-09 00:09:28

Yes, have a good holiday. Are you going scuba diving? <whistles innocently>

VeniVidiVickiQV Sun 16-Aug-09 00:13:52

Did you see my fantastic idea about tick boxes to choose which paper can quote you - or not? grin

beanieb Sun 16-Aug-09 00:15:56

"I was, for sure heartened by the fact that the item was being written by a Mumsnetter who, though I don't know her personally, always seemed to be well respected by lots of Mumsnetters."

out of all you have written, ^ this ^ bit kind of annoys/concerns me.

While you may find it heartening that she is a mumsnetter I think there are many who do not.

Surely if the person lifting writing the piece was/is really a well respected mumsnetter then she would have realised what effect her actions would/could have on some posters here. There is something rather unsavoury about a regular and 'respected' mumsnetter using the conversations here as a way to make money (presumably she is paid for her contributions to the Daily mail?) and even more unsavoury that someone so regular and respected would make such an awful mistake and credit the wrong people in the threads she lifted.

If it were some other anonymous hack who doesn't post, doesn't take part, isn't aware of the tone and stule of mumsnet... then maybe it would be a little easier to understand. It being a regular and 'well respected' poster just makes it seem worse to me.

You say "bet there are a fair few MN journalists who would love a crack the same gig".... actually - I bet there are a few Mumsnetters who are also journalists but who wouldn't dream of lifting stuff from here to make a few quid.

How would you police these new private boards by the way? How would you stop journalists from joining them and taking parts of what may be discussed? Are you planning on having a more consistent and enforced set of terms and conditions for these new private boards?

Also - what is her username? I would like to know if I like and respect her as a mumsnet boarder as much as I like and respect her as a journalist.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 16-Aug-09 00:16:07

Ha - scuba diving - is that what Robert Maxwell was doing?

VeniVidiVickiQV Sun 16-Aug-09 00:17:43

Umm. I think that was the mafioso's cover story for how he ended up in the drink.....grin

beanieb Sun 16-Aug-09 00:18:44

and... apart from the private boards, what do you plan to do next?

VeniVidiVickiQV Sun 16-Aug-09 00:19:19

scuba dive, I think, beanie.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 16-Aug-09 00:20:41

I will answer on private boards thread in a mo Beanieb that's just my opinion - thought it was important to say it because there have been some very harsh words said and I think there is another way of interpreting it - you obviously have every right to disagree!

beanieb Sun 16-Aug-09 00:20:59

oh, right.

weird. I thought she meant what they plan to do next about the inconsistent terms and conditons and the upset some people feel.

ah well.

KingCanuteIAmAndTheDMCanFOff Sun 16-Aug-09 00:29:03

Wow - you have been following closely Justine!

[impressed with dedication but still reserving judgement]

maryz Sun 16-Aug-09 00:34:50

Enjoy your holiday, and thanks for the update, but I agree with beanieb that as a mumsnetter she should have known (or asked) what the general opinion would be!

KingCanuteIAmAndTheDMCanFOff Sun 16-Aug-09 00:34:56

Sorry, also meant to say, have a good holiday. Do you have an underwater camera? grin

DailyMailarelazy Sun 16-Aug-09 00:36:45

I agree with beanieb. This is hurtful from a respected MN

On the bright side, no-one I know reads the DM wink

DailyMailsaysVOTELABOUR Sun 16-Aug-09 00:38:20

Agree with beanie It is precisely because journo was a mner that has caused so much, um, surprise Bad form, very bad form. And I don't think she's been given a hard time at all

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 16-Aug-09 00:42:00

beanieb: "and... apart from the private boards, what do you plan to do next?"

Blimey - my longest post EVER and I still can't through...

We plan to ask the Daily Mail to stop running this column as they are running it

(Sorry if I didn't make that clear)

KingCanuteIAmAndTheDMCanFOff Sun 16-Aug-09 00:46:11

What do you mean "as they are running it now"?

Because that is very different to just asking them to stop. Do you mean you would want control and then it could go ahead, or you would want paying then it could go ahead...or some other condition but, essentially, if they agree to your demands it can go ahead?

hunkermunker Sun 16-Aug-09 00:48:52

I've got an idea, Justine - can you ask them to stop running it as it is now and put it in the Guardian? grin

LilyBolero Sun 16-Aug-09 00:52:51

Justine, how many threads have been marked OTW today? winkgrin

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