‘Hate mail hell of gap-year blogger’ – a headline from the Observer relating to Max Gogarty, whose first blog post on Guardian.co.uk 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.