I’ve been in the press (all forms) quite a lot over the last year. The MAJORITY of the reports I was featured in, were either factually incorrect, I was misquoted or… they completely made up elements of my story! I’ve even had copyrighted photos stolen from me, by journalists, and republished with the newspapers own watermarks!
Stories in newspapers, particularly, seem to be grossly exaggerated or completely erroneous, quite often. In the case of my story – most often!
So why is this?
I put it down to two things:
1) Sloppy Journalism
2) Lazy journalism
We’ll start with sloppy…
Those newspapers that actually do take the time to make contact with you and get an interview or quote, don’t always copy things down accurately. They speed-write notes and then when typing up, slot parts of the interview in, where they feel it will make the story more dramatic – rather than where, when or how, they actually happened. This is sloppy. This leads to inaccuracies in the report, and leaves the subject of the report feeling angry. It also opens up the arena for criticism, because readers think it is the person in the story, that told it wrong, rather than the sloppy journo!
Contrary to popular belief – Newspapers often do not pay people for their stories. They usually just take them from other newspapers, change them a little bit, and republish them. Most often, without the subject of the article, even knowing about it! This is where even more inaccuracies occur – consequently opening up the subject of the story, to a whole barrage of criticism.
Take my story, for example.
Last year, I fought Thyroid Cancer. I had radioactive iodine treatment, which meant that for a while (7 days in May and 3 days in November), I was radioactive, and could not go within 2 metres of anyone – including my own family. Although my story was not unusual, due to my raising awareness on my blog, the media made my story international and I was coined “radioactive mum”. In December I got given the all-clear from Cancer and I started a fundraising campaign called #EmmasArmy.
What did the media say?
In Jan 2014, I’ve found my story in several newspapers again. One of which, stating that I had been radioactive for 7 MONTHS and showing a photo of my “first hug” with my children. The photo they used, was actually the photo used in the papers in May 2013, after I was cleared to cuddle my children following my first round of radiotherapy. I was radioactive for 7 DAYS, not 7 MONTHS.
One national newspaper called my internal radiotherapy a “pioneering new treatment”, when actually, radioiodine has been used for decades as a treatment for thyroid conditions.
Another paper and a few online news articles stated in May 2013 that I had “been given the all-clear”. This was the most upsetting of mistakes, as I was very much still fighting cancer at the time. I wasn’t given the all-clear until December 2013.
My wedding photos, taken by a fantastic professional photographer, and a few of my own photos were seen published in national newspapers, with SWNS copyright watermarks. I can guarantee you, they most certainly did not have ANY rights to those pictures. I had made it quite clear, that any photos used, must correctly credit the photographer, but the press think themselves above such rights and claimed them regardless.
I received criticism for the inaccuracies of my story in different publications and I received criticism for “selling my story”. The truth is, I was not given a single penny for my story and I have only ever given print media three interviews – all to the same local paper. All the national newspapers, the online papers and the international papers, made up their own stories. They took quotes from the local paper or from my blog and I assume they bought my photos from the local paper too.
My story is interesting and inspiring in it’s own right. That’s why my blog gets so many pageviews. So why do journalists feel the need to dramatise stories and lie?
Well, it is my humble opinion, that it is just bad, sloppy or lazy journalism. You want to read a true story? Read an exclusive, or read a blog!
Petit Mom says
Here Here! Had photographs taken without permission and un-named as to who took them when it was clear they had stolen them from me. Newspapers want to know why they are a dying section of the media? Because they can’t get the facts right! But then again happens with online newspapers as you say but same journalist just on a different medium.
Sarah MumofThree World says
That is all so annoying. I think a lot of it is down to sloppy journalism. They’re under time pressure, so they just fill in the gaps. Well done to you for putting the record straight. I hope lots of people read this. x
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It’s crap that they can’t get it right… I guess so long as sells papers they don’t care! It’s lucky you have this platform to set the record straight xx
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Wow, I read that story, and had no idea it was you. Good to get the real story. Thanks for making things clear – great post.
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Mums do travel says
I’m really sorry about your experiences with the press. I’m a trained journalist, as well as a blogger, and I assure you that we don’t all work like that. Whatever I write for publication I check very carefully to make sure that it’s factually correct. I record interviews with people (with their permission) and transcribe them to make sure that I get things exactly right. If I’m not sure about something then I go back for clarification. Have you tried contacting the editors of the publications concerned? You could also contact the Press Complaints Commission about what’s happened – their website is http://www.pcc.org.uk/
Donna Wishart says
As the saying goes – No such thing as bad publicity. You know the truth, surely that’s all that matters? I wouldn’t waste your energy on it.
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Kiran at Mummy Says says
I’m so sorry to hear about your experiences. I’m a trained journo as well as a blogger and I worked in newspapers for nearly a decade before having my children. Not all papers work the way you’ve experienced, and not all journos are so sloppy. However, what you describe is inexcusable. Good for your for using your voice and setting things straight. There are also avenues (as mentioned above) should you wish to take things further. I’m so disheartened when I hear stories like this. Sadly, you aren’t alone in how you’ve been treated. As cutbacks continue across the industry too, I fear things won’t change. Much love x
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Mistakes happen. I read your story, I can see where misunderstandings have arisen. If you’re not a medical specialist, especially… it’s unfortunate, and shouldn’t happen. I can completely understand your frustration and distress.
But, but, but… I worked as a journalist for 12 years. I know that most journalists are hard-working, and care about the stories they tell. Nobody goes into the office thinking, “Wonder how many stories I’ll make up today?”
Over the past 10 years journalism in the UK has been decimated. Advertising revenue has collapsed, nobody is prepared to pay for content online. So you have papers running on a shoe-string. As a reporter, where once you might have written 10 stories a week, spending most of your day out and about meeting the people you wrote about, now you’re probably writing 20 stories a day, against impossible deadlines, with no contract, for the same money you earned 20 years ago. There used to be subs and fact-checkers – they’re long gone. Nobody can afford them.
So yeah, you could say “journalism is dead; blogs are the future” but what does that look like? For every blogger telling their own story as they see it, there’s an extremist or prejudiced writer perpetuating harmful lies, or a brand buying people off for certain content.
Are journalists perfect? No. But there ARE processes in place for individuals to resolve issues, address inaccuracies and be compensated where mistakes lead to harm. I’d always argue an imperfect press is a thousand times better than the alternative.
That said, next time anyone does a first person interview for an article you should absolutely ask to see the interview before it goes to press, or at the very least have your quotes read back to you over the phone. I’d also strongly recommend, especially when it’s a complex medical issue, sending the journalist a follow-up email with key facts, dates etc – because it is so very easy to get it wrong.
I hope you get the corrections you’re after.
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Emma Day says
I’m not saying journalism is dead, I’m saying there are just so many sloppy and lazy journalists out there, that it’s giving all journalists a bad name. My story is just one example. It’s the reason I don’t read newspapers!
I of course got everything checked with the articles I intended to run – the ones I was interviewed for. Those ones were absolutely fine. The others were stories run without my knowledge. No interviews took place for those. Those were the ones that were all FULL of inaccuracies. I followed the correct procedures for corrections, but only one paper, bothered to run the correction. That correction was microscopic in comparison with the original article they ran.
I also know for a fact, that a certain agency have profited a great deal from selling my story and my photos… without my permission. I, however, didn’t “sell” my story to anyone.
Mummy Tries says
Well said Emma. Very sad that your story has had to be sensationalised though, as you rightly said it’s inspiring enough as it is. Try not to let stuff like this get you down xx
Some interesting exchanges here. And well done you for setting out what really happened. Would agree there are some excellent journalists out there and they fulfill a different role from bloggers. That said, seems you have been victim of some sloppy reporting and have every reason to feel p* off. Hate cut and paste jobs (especially with the only originality is a large slug of sensationalism). Seems press often chase the latter rather than focussing on real human interest (with the emphasis on real).
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