Tag Archives: Melanie Schregardus

Air traffic controller blogger drops press complaint following Irish Mail on Sunday apology

In January we reported how blogger Melanie Schregardus, an air traffic controller in Shannon, lodged a complaint and sought legal advice when the Irish Mail on Sunday reported, alongside her photograph, that she had ‘lifted the lid’ on a ‘den of male chauvinists’ in her workplace; a story she strongly disputed.

In a lengthy statement in January the newspaper defended its treatment of the story without apology.

But after Schregardus took the matter to the Irish Press Council, the newspaper agreed to print an apology. On Sunday February 21, it published this, on page 4:

In our edition of January 24, we published an article based on the contents of a blog written by Melanie Schregardus, an air traffic controller in Shannon.

The Irish Mail on Sunday was critical of the behaviour of her male colleagues, as described by Ms Schregardus in her blog, and labelled this behaviour as ‘sexist’.

Ms Schregardus has asked us to point out that our interpretation of her remarks does not reflect her personal views.

While the Irish Mail on Sunday did contact Ms Schregardus prior to publication to ask for an interview in relation to the controllers’ industrial action of the previous week, it was not made clear to her during those contacts that there was a proposed article that would focus on the contents of her blog. This error was a breach of our own policy and is deeply regretted.

Thus while the Irish Mail on Sunday stands over its story, we would nevertheless like to apologise to Ms Schregardus for not informing her in advance that we planned to report on her blog.

Ms Schregardus has asked us to point out that she is very happy and fulfilled in her job, and that her colleagues, both male and female, are of the highest calibre as fellow workers and personal friends.

Schregardus has written more about the process on her blog.

While she says she is unhappy that she did not see the final version of the apology before it was printed, she will now drop her complaint:

After some further discussion and reflection, my family and I decided to accept this clarification as the end of the matter. After all, the Mail had been forced to apologise and clarify, warned about its conduct, and the journalist in question had been disciplined.

She also commends her readers’ support following the article, and the influence of online users in challenging mainstream media reports:

As many people read my original blogpost as actually buy the Mail on Sunday every weekend, and that’s thanks to all of you who helped get my side of the story out there. I’m not one for big reflections on the world, but it seems to me that we are reaching a point where – thanks to the power of the internet – the media have to think twice before pursuing an ordinary person, and that’s a good thing.

Irish Mail on Sunday responds to air controller blogger’s complaint

We reported earlier this week that air controller and blogger Melanie Schregardus had lodged a complaint with the Irish Mail on Sunday, after the newspaper ran an article about her last Sunday. Online users rushed to her defence, via Twitter and in the comments on her reinstated blog.

The editor of the Irish Mail on Sunday, Sebastian Hamilton, told Journalism.co.uk that the newspaper has now responded to Schregardus’ complaint and is awaiting her reply, if she has one.

As we reported before, Schregardus told Journalism.co.uk she had been in touch with the Irish press ombudsman and is seeking legal advice.

A re-published copy of Schregardus’ original blog post can be viewed here; Bernie Goldbach has a PDF of the newspaper article on his blog (or Twitpic here)

In a statement issued by the Irish Mail on Sunday today, it presents its own version of events:

Some months ago Mrs Schregardus published a 500-word account of her experiences as a female air traffic controller on an internet blog that was open to millions of people around the world to read. Mrs Schregardus made no effort to restrict the viewing. In the week air traffic controllers staged a four-hour walk-out, it provided a fascinating insight into working conditions in a job that was obviously of major public interest.

Writing after the Mail on Sunday article was published, Schregardus had claimed: The Mail never told me they were writing a piece about my blog. The journalist who wrote it never sent me an email asking me questions about my blog.

But the Mail disputes that account in its statement today:

It is simply untrue to say that the paper did not contact Mrs Schregardus before publication. On Thursday, January 21, Luke Byrne [the reporter] attempted to contact Mrs Schregardus by Twitter (the only contact details he had) and asked her for an interview. On Friday, January 22, Mrs Schregardus replied. She informed Mr Byrne that she had sought permission from her trade union to speak to us. He awaited further contact from her, but he did not hear from Mrs Schregardus again. Either she chose not to speak to him or her union refused her permission to do so.

By this stage Mrs Schregardus had already put her description of her workplace into the public domain. In this respect, publishing an open blog is little different from giving a TV interview, making a radio broadcast or sending out a handbill: you are airing your opinions for all to hear.

Scheragadus said she believed the article made it sound like she thought her colleagues were sexist: “The people I work with today could, and probably have, read it and decided that I am not on their side, and that I think that they are sexist, nasty, bullies. None of this is true.”

The Irish Mail on Sunday said today:

The Irish Mail on Sunday did not attribute to Mrs Schregardus the view that her colleagues were sexist. Luke Byrne quoted extensively from what she had said about her working environment. His account made clear that some of the sexist behaviour described by Mrs Schregardus (such as refusing to let women sit together) occurred during her early days as an air traffic controller and that conditions have improved since. While the article reported a number of sexist incidents, it does not say she is unhappy: for example, it quotes her as saying: ‘I’m well looked after by the guys, they’re quite protective of their “girlie”.’

Nevertheless, based on the contents of her blog, it is an empirical fact that her workplace is a sexist environment. Mrs Schregardus describes ‘banter’ between her male colleagues that, in her own view, is ‘quite inappropriate’ in front of a woman. She adds that that she is forced to pretend that such comments do not bother her.  Furthermore, Mrs Schregardus describes how to this day she is one of very few women employees in air traffic control – and, extraordinarily, that she still expected, ‘as the girl’, to take on secretarial tasks such as sending birthday cards and organising Christmas parties.

Last week’s air traffic controllers’ strike, which brought the country to a standtstill, was presented by union leaders as being about fairness for workers. In this context, it was a matter of public interest to tell our readers how some air traffic controllers actually behave towards female colleagues.

In the eyes of the law, and presumably of most reasonable people, male workers who make such comments and treat female colleagues in this way in a 21st century office would be considered to be behaving in a sexist and discriminatory fashion. Indeed, several of the comments on her original post sympathise with the attitudes of her colleagues or tell similar stories of women being discriminated against in the workplace (one, from a Danish Tweeter, says: ‘Come to Denmark, my friend – I do hope we offer some more respect than described here’.)

In regards to the image in the article, Schregardus told Journalism.co.uk: “I don’t know where the photo was taken from. It wasn’t on my blog. It is on my Facebook profile, but that’s completely shut down privacy-wise.”

Today, the Mail said:

The photograph of Mrs Schregardus which we published to accompany this article came from Page 36 of this online magazine http://issuu.com/connors-bevalot/docs/publication1_-destress

Like Mrs Schregardus’s blog, it had been put into the public domain by Mrs Schregardus herself.

Blogger seeks legal advice over Irish Mail on Sunday article

Air controller and blogger Melanie Schregardus has lodged a complaint with the Irish Mail on Sunday after the newspaper ran an article about her at the weekend. Schregardus was horrified, she says, when a friend notified her about the article, entitled ‘The male chauvinist pigs of Irish air control’.

The Irish Mail on Sunday (part of the Associated Newspapers group) reported, alongside her photograph, that she had ‘lifted the lid’ on a ‘den of male chauvinists’ in the Shannon air control tower.

[Bernie Goldbach on the Inside View blog hosts a PDF copy at this link / Twitpic from Ian Walsh]

Schregardus was surprised because, she claims, the journalist had not been in touch to ask about her blog, or inform her that they were writing an article.

The article was based, she later explained in a new post, on a blog item penned in November:

[I] wrote a blogpost called “Women? In Air Traffic Control?”. I wrote it in response to people on Twitter and in my life who wanted to know what it was like to do my job. There aren’t many of us. Most people don’t meet many Air Traffic Controllers, and it has, in films, media, and most portrayals, been depicted as a job done mainly by men.

I tried to talk in it about what it was like for me, nearly a decade ago, being one of the first women to do my job in Ireland. I didn’t then, and do not now, think my work colleagues are “Male Chauvinist Pigs”, as the Mail headlined their article. I love my job, and the people I work with. I was talking about how I felt years ago, starting out, slightly scared and intimidated by the responsibilities that people who do my job hold in our hands.

Schregardus’ originally deleted her blog but told Journalism.co.uk that was a “knee jerk reaction” and she later realised she “had nothing to be ashamed of”.

“Luckily I had always saved my posts so I set up a blog again and copied everything back in. The only difference is that the dates on all posts is now the 24th Jan.”

[the original posting, with its correct date can be viewed in the Google cache]

Upset by the way her blog comments had been used in the Mail on Sunday, she has now contacted the newspaper to make a complaint. After speaking to a member of the newspaper, she now awaits a response.

She has also contacted the press commission, she said, and is seeking legal advice.

The Irish press council could not confirm the status of Schregardus’ complaint: “The policy of this office is that all matters relating to a complaint remain confidential until the complaints process has been concluded, when all the relevant details are published on our website,” the body said in an email to Journalism.co.uk.

Journalism.co.uk will continue to attempt to contact the Irish Mail on Sunday for further comment.

Update 28/01/10: Please see a statement later issued by the Irish Mail on Sunday at this link

  • Hat-tip to Alison Gow for alerting us to this story.
  • Listen to more about the case on the Hobson and Holtz report podcast.
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