Gap year blogger ends Guardian blog after ‘hate mail hell’

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‘Hate mail hell of gap-year blogger’ – a headline from the Observer relating to Max Gogarty, whose first blog post on about his gap year plans received a less than warm reception from readers.

The forthright criticisms left on Gogarty’s post were aimed less at the young writer’s style and more at his links with travel section contributor Paul Gogarty – Max’s dad – and as a result Guardian policy.

Since comments on the original post were closed, the paper’s travel editor Andy Pietrasik, digital editor Emily Bell and Observer columnist Rafael Behr have all reacted to the backlash – each trying to add a measure of calm to the situation.

The ‘hate mail hell’ to which the Observer piece refers lasted for around five days, but I can’t help but think the publisher might have expected this. Surely the accusations of nepotism made could have been foreseen, as could criticism of what value such a blog contributes to the section?

Furthermore, much of the criticism centres around the blog vs professional blog debate, arguing that the writing offered did not match up with the professional content elsewhere on the site.

As such I feel for Max – I don’t know how I would react to such a torrent of online abuse, especially as most of this abuse should be levelled at the publisher and not the blogger in question.

This was an editorial error by the site – neither reader nor writer are satisfied with the outcome – yet the paper’s commentators don’t own up to this, condemning this as a case of ‘online mob justice’.Yes, some of the comments are an attempt to outdo the last with their mercilessness, but the fact that over 500 were left on this blog should set alarm bells ringing.

Do the comments lose their credibility because they are largely angry (and yes, sometimes borderline abusive)? If so, why allow so many through the moderation process in the first place?

These are your readers – telling you exactly what they think – best to listen to them and not label them a mob.

7 thoughts on “Gap year blogger ends Guardian blog after ‘hate mail hell’

  1. David Abbott

    I think this example is the tip of the iceberg as far as the London media elite goes. Sure, ‘ordinary’ wannabees can make it in the national media, but this just shows how much it stinks and its the tip of the iceberg IMHO. My own brief glimpse into the London media left me feeling it was heavily overpopulated by Oxbridge-ites and it was often more a question of who, rather than what you knew, or where you had been to uni rather than actual merit. But there you go, funny old world, innit?

  2. ourman

    Spot on. There is a general feeling that as a result of the Guardian’s soliciting of comments they have become very tired of reader criticism and have actually reached the point of virtually going into battle with them.

    The Max Gogarty affair is this suggestion coming to a head.

    There is repeated suggestion that, when it comes to covering anything outside of London, the Guardian’s tone is sneery and patronising. In its follow ups to the Max Gogarty blog it is downright abusive to its readers. In its Fiver email on Friday it makes no bones about calling readers self righteous.

    One of the reasons Max got such stick is that he was from North London. All Guardian readers are so sick of tales from North London.

    Elsewhere, follow the sports blogs and the commenters are crying out for “regime change”.

    This is unprecedented – I have never known a newspaper go out of its ways to actively abuse its readers. It has backed itself into a corner and, instead of listening to reader suggestions, is coming out fighter. It appears that it is only going to become more embittered and more insular.

    Links to all the Gogarty posts on my blog – plus the offending part of The Fiver.

  3. ourman


    Not directly related to the whole Gogarty affair but worth noting that earlier last week the Guardian had actually referred to bloggers as “maggots” in CiF.

    More evidence of what appears to be a real culture of dislike when it comes to blogs and bloggers.

  4. Mark

    I’d agree with the other comments that it is about CIF in general rather than this particular bog. They occasionally produce provocative pieces which produce annoyed responses and are subsequently closed. All too often the editors and writers ignore reasonable criticism but play the martyr by quoting some of the nastiest abuse and tarring everyone else with the same brush.
    There are other problems on CiF too, suspicions that writers get slots from who they know have been aired before. There seems to be clique of younger writers from North London who seem to either or are related to each other. The Max Gogarty blog just sent out all the wrong signals, posters were cynically asking who he was related to even before the Paul Gogarty connection was discovered.

  5. kirsty

    I am also a 19 year old hoping to write for a national news paper or magazine in the future. And so, Max wanting to get his name in print for such a news paper to add to that much needed portfolio I can understand and I can’t say I wouldn’t jump at the chance even if my dad was the travel editor.
    However, this proves very daunting for myself as the whole “its who you know” scenario proves itself so right and so obviously.
    Good luck to those wanting to get on to a National because of your valued writing is all I can say.

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