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Oh Mumsnet you bunch of racketeers, you have upset Nick Cohen in the Spectator

(111 Posts)
UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Tue 24-Dec-13 09:49:38

Sorry if someone has already started a thread about this already.

blogs.spectator.co.uk/nick-cohen/2013/12/the-mumsnet-racketeers/

You wouldn't pay the poor man.

FWIW I think you were fair - you stated your policy, he was free to take it or leave it.

HotheadPaisan Tue 24-Dec-13 09:56:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HotheadPaisan Tue 24-Dec-13 09:56:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GodRestTEEMerryGenTEEmen Tue 24-Dec-13 09:56:50

Your link doesn't work.

BarbaraWoodlouse Tue 24-Dec-13 09:59:18

blogs.spectator.co.uk/nick-cohen/2013/12/the-mumsnet-racketeers/

I couldn't get your link to work. Trying again...

I don't have an issue with MN not paying for web chats. I admit to being a little more hmm about charging guests for web chats without making that fact explicitly clear.

Can't help wondering if Gok paid for his mauling unsuccessful promotional activities, which would explain the fury!

Gladvent Tue 24-Dec-13 10:01:49

Sorry I started to read it but it turned into whine whine whine. How rude to cut and paste Rowan's email!

GodRestTEEMerryGenTEEmen Tue 24-Dec-13 10:05:13

Now it works.

And he has a point.

But so does Mumsnet.

TheDoctrineOfSanta Tue 24-Dec-13 10:06:24

He's missed the point, surely? He wasn't being charged, MN approached him - I'm sure if those with a new book to promote ask MN for a web chat, they are happy to pay for it as they would for a web ad or a reading club placement (free books given away etc)

Trills Tue 24-Dec-13 10:08:49

It's definitely the time of year when journalists bring out all of the things that they've written earlier but that got shelved in favour of something more interesting more topical.

TheWomanTheyCallJayne Tue 24-Dec-13 10:10:10

It's really simple. He can say no if he doesn't want to do it.

Trills Tue 24-Dec-13 10:12:56

He can say no, but he can also say that he disapproves of the whole thing, not just for himself but on principle.

If someone offers me a fur coat for £100, I can say no I don't want to buy that. But I could also, if I wished, express the opinion that fur coats are wrong in general and that nobody should be selling them. And other people could disagree and say that they think it's fine to make and sell fur coats. It's a conversation point.

DeckTheHallsWithBoughsOfHorry Tue 24-Dec-13 10:13:44

His general point ("don't ask me to work for nothing") which is fair enough has been lost in a relatively irrelevant rant about MN in particular.

It's very obvious to those of us who have ever taken part in one what excellent exposure a webchat can be.

AnAdventureInCakeAndWine Tue 24-Dec-13 10:14:18

MNHQ have always been upfront (on here at least) about charging for webcast. Generally everyone who comes on has something to promote and MNHQ take the view, quite accurately I think, that the guest has more to gain from the web chat than MNHQ does.

It's possible, I suppose, that twenty thousand new visitors who'd never visited MN before would have signed up to read what Nick Cohen had to say. But it's not precisely likely.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Tue 24-Dec-13 10:14:51

fblush sorry about the link.

GodRestTEEMerryGenTEEmen Tue 24-Dec-13 10:25:06

It's just like HQ charge for people to survey their population. MN spends quite a bit of money on servers, hosting, etc etc etc. Why should someone get to use their membership for free?

LeafyGreen13 Tue 24-Dec-13 10:35:05

But they approached him so I think he has a point. If he had approached mumsnet with something to sell it would have been different, I think.

SarahMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 24-Dec-13 10:35:38

Hey folks, just to clarify a couple of points - we'd never charge guests such as Nick Cohen to take part in webchats - only big corporations such as, for example, British Gas.

As you might imagine, we were pretty disappointed with the piece. Justine wrote to Cohen and Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, about it; no response as yet, but I've copied in the text of her email below, in case you're interested to read. On a jollier note, merry Christmas, one and all fsmile

Justine's mail

Dear Nick,
I think you've written an extraordinarily unfair piece about Mumsnet. I'm sure you have some very valid gripes about the blogging economy and what it's done to writers' pay, but you've conflated that with something entirely different in your piece.

We asked you for a webchat, not to write a piece of journalism. A webchat is an online interview. We've conducted many of those with individuals over the years - from politicians, to writers, to health professionals, to campaigners and celebrities, and no one has ever asked to be paid. Not one person out of hundreds and hundreds. Neither have we ever asked any one of those people to pay us. We genuinely believed you might value a platform to talk about an interesting issue which you seemed to care about - to rally folk to the argument. Plus we thought you would be an all-round interesting webchat guest.

We do charge big companies for corporate webchats because it takes time and resource to run and promote them, and we think corporations can afford to pay for that privilege. Corporate webchats are in fact quite rare on Mumsnet - we did no more than a handful last year - and we only ever do them if it's on an interesting topic - eg the horsemeat scandal. We did many, many more non-sponsored with interesting individuals like yourself.

In your piece you suggested that we wanted you/ writers like you to pay for webchats. But you know full well we didn't - we merely tried to point out that many thought there was value in chatting with the MN audience. As I say, no-one else has ever asked to be paid, and as I'm sure you're aware, the Guardian and Spectator don't pay for online webchats and interviews etc either.

Aside from the piece itself - the headline is really dodgy I think. Racketeers, really?

A racketeer by definition is
A person who commits crimes such as extortion, loansharking, bribery, and obstruction of justice in furtherance of illegal business activities.
intr.v. rack·et·eered, rack·et·eer·ing, rack·et·eers
To carry on illegal business activities that involve crimes.

I'm struggling to see how you can accurately and fairly headline your piece as Mumsnet Racketeers? What kind of illegal business is going on here? We didn't offer you a fee to have an online chat with our users (who don't pay to come on the site). I don't remember the Spectator or Guardian ever offering to pay me for an interview. It's a hugely misleading, horribly unfair and damaging headline - plus it's being retweeted everywhere by outraged journalists believing we are charging our online interviewees. Would you have another look at it, please?

Best,
Justine

Golddigger Tue 24-Dec-13 10:37:35

Havent got time to read all the article in depth.

But he has got a point about journalism turning or potentially turning into only the preserve of the rich.

Golddigger Tue 24-Dec-13 10:39:06

x post. Havent got time to read that either right now. So dont know if my point is still relevant.
Will read it all properly later.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Tue 24-Dec-13 10:39:30

Great reply Justine smile

fairisleknitter Tue 24-Dec-13 10:40:25

Yes to the last point Golddigger.

ACrowRoad Tue 24-Dec-13 10:59:13

He is absolutely spot on. He's a professional writer - he makes his living by offering commentary on topical issues.

Mumsnet skirting around the issue by trying to redefine this as a "web chat" is disingenuous in the extreme.

Let's be clear here - he's not plugging a book or some other event. He was asked to offer commentary on a topic in the news. Mumsnet stands to benefit here by using the profile of Nick Cohen to drive traffic to the website.

If this was the Guardian (who do pay interviewees and commentators by the way - www.theguardian.com/info/guardian-news-media-freelance-charter) or the BBC or just about any other professional outfit he would be paid. Mumsnet is at best being cheap and at worst contributing to the decline of journalism as an industry.

Here's a question to Justine, Rowan, etc. Do you expect to be paid for the work you do?

garlicbaubles Tue 24-Dec-13 11:05:48

It was a good reply, Justine.

He's absolutely right to complain about writers being expected to write for free! And absolutely wrong to say that's what Mumsnet asked of him. The poor sausage seems not to have understood that a webchat is an interview conducted via the keyboard. Typing the words doesn't make it a writing job, unless we're all professionals here!

Bless him wink

garlicbaubles Tue 24-Dec-13 11:13:26

ACrow, I think you're guilty of the same conflation.

The conversation, summarised:
MN: Hello, Nick Cohen, would you like to talk to our members about An Issue?
NC: Not really, but I can write you a column if you like.
MN: Cheers, but that's not really our thing.
NC: OK. Bye.

If a pundit really wanted to talk to us for some reason, they could start a thread in Chat. Most seem to prefer being protected by MNHQ through the webchat format, and appreciate the puffery thus provided. This chap just misunderstood (wilfully or not) what was being suggested.

SarahMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 24-Dec-13 11:15:10

Hey ACrowRoad - the thing is, it wasn't a piece of writing that we were asking him for - we wanted to invite him on the site as a webchat guest. The Guardian pays its contributors, but it doesn't pay interviewees or webchat guests; I worked there for 13 years, so can say this with confidence. Also, I've never been paid by the BBC for doing an interview, and nor would I expect to be.

As Justine said in her mail, Cohen raises some fair points about the effect of the internet and blogging on journalism as an industry, but he's eliding them with a different issue - whether participants should be paid a fee for taking part in a webchat/interview. Interviewees weren't paid for their participation before the arrival of the internet/online webchats; why ought they to be now?

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