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.

squeaver Tue 18-Aug-09 11:18:43

Thanks mp. I agree with you re the Mail.

kitstwins Tue 18-Aug-09 11:29:42

Exhaustively long post but I do want to put my point across - more for myself than anything else as doubtless it will get lost in a morass of xposts.

It doesn't sit easily with me because I hate the Daily Mail and its readership. It would appear to be written for bitter, middle England who like nothing better to run people down. The thought that whole posts could be lifted and pasted (verbatim) into the Daily Mail for some bitter 50-something lady from Woking to rake over is an horrendous one. Some lady called Sue sneering at the woes of first time mothers as she scrapes a thin layer of marmalade over her toast.

Yes, there is the issue of MN being an open Forum but the reality is that it's fairly niche - people who want to read it, read it. They go looking for it and post on relevant topics. They post knowing that like-minded people are there to offer support, advice, wisdom, irrelevance, etc. Aside from 'trolls' you can assume that everyone has a joint purpose in being a member of this site. Equally, posts and comments can be lifted into books but, let's face it, the readership is going to be pretty similar: Like-minded women, mothers, etc. Bitter 50-Something Lady From Woking is not going to sit and read the Mumsnet pregnancy book unless she has a relevant interest and ergo she's not going to sneer. Because let's face it, the Daily Mail is all about sneering.

The idea that some deadline journalist who can't be a*ed to come up with an original idea is going to cherry pick her way through the juiciest posts and make her selection is horrendous. What do you post on? What do you post on that WON'T be selected by an idle Daily Mail hack for mass regurgitation in her weekly column? You've no way of guessing, so you've got to muffle your identity. Or not post on the burning issues. The idea that my thoughts about my struggles with parenthood, birth, twins, PND, toddler feeding can become fodder for the cynical of middle England depresses and appalls me. Given that I can't predict which posts will be selected on a weekly basis the only recourse is to stop posting or make my posts bland and anonymous and keep to safe, generic subjects. If we all do this then maybe Mumsnet will become so bland the Daily Mail will go somewhere else to satisfy its deadlines. Now there's an idea. Hoist on its own petard!

We all understand that our posts are the property of Mumsnet. But within the Mumsnet readership that seems acceptable. Yes, anyone can log onto Mumsnet and read through whatever they like but the likelihood of them doing so on a consistent basis unless they actually derive pleasure or support from it is pretty unlikely. Equally, one's posts can end up in Mumsnet books but, again, it's going to be a sympathetic and like-minded readership.

Maybe I'd feel happier if it WAS the Guardian. Possibly because their circulation is smaller but mostly because the readership is more educated and more 'thinking' than the Daily Mail. The bitter of Basingstoke read the Mail so they can tear cellulited soap stars to shreds for wearing a bikini - it's the press version of twitching net curtains if ever there was, and I hate that. I don't subscribe to Mail journalism and I don't read the paper. Why should my posts become part of something I don't believe in? Mumsnet and Daily Mail don't go together in my book and if there's going to be a marriage between the two (arranged or forced or happy) I'm off. I doubt Mumsnet will care but I'm not going to feed my thoughts into the pedestrian rantings of that particular tabloid. The Daily Mail is shit. And they can quote me on that.

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