Tag Archives: zoe margolis

Independent on Sunday offers blogger damages over ‘hooker’ headline

The Independent on Sunday has offered blogger Zoe Margolis “substantial” damages after the newspaper called her a ‘hooker’ in the headline of an article she had written.

The headline, ‘I was a hooker who became an agony aunt’, published in both the paper and online on 7 March 2010, was later corrected to ‘I’m a good-time girl who became an agony aunt’. The original version remained live on the mobile site for some time, before being removed.

On 12 March the IoS apologised for the error, which it said was written by the newspaper not Ms Margolis: “We accept that Ms Margolis is not and never has been ‘a hooker’ or otherwise involved in the sex industry. The wording of the headline was a mistake and seriously defamatory of Ms Margolis. We offer our sincere apologies to Ms Margolis for the damage to her reputation and the distress and embarrassment which she has suffered.”

A statement issued today, on behalf of Margolis, who writes the ‘Girl With a One Track Mind’ blog, said the author and blogger had been seriously defamed.

“The resulting affect of this libel was immeasurable, and Ms. Margolis was forced to issue legal proceedings against Independent News & Media Ltd,” says the release.

“These proceedings have now come to a conclusion and substantial damages have been offered to Ms. Margolis for the distress and impact to her reputation, both personal and professional, that this libel caused.”

A statement will be read out in court 13 at the Royal Courts of Justice in front of Mr Justice Eady tomorrow, Friday 21 May 2010 at 10.30am. Further information can be found at this link.

Margolis, who writes about her sex life on her blog and in her two books, told Journalism.co.uk that the amount of damages was substantial for a case of its kind, “but in no way vitiates the harm done by the libel, which is still having an effect on my life and no doubt will continue to do so”.

“I’m satisfied with the outcome, in that the Independent on Sunday have admitted that their printing that headline was ‘seriously defamatory’, and that they now have to state this on public record in court. But the damage and distress they’ve caused me are far greater than any apology they can make.

“So often, it seems, the media makes a conflation between women who talk about sex and sexual desire, with those who work in the sex industry.

She said that through her writing she had tried to show that this perspective was sexist. So, she said, “it was incredibly insulting and hurtful to then be described in this way in the article I wrote for them.

“It undermined everything I’ve ever written about and did indescribable damage to my reputation.”

Margolis said she thinks newspapers need to be “much, much more careful” about what goes up online.

“Print runs can be stopped, but as soon a libel exists on the web – as it did in my case, both in the title and in the URL itself – it’s impossible to halt that once it’s gone live via RSS.

“Editors and sub editors need to check, double-check and triple check the URLs and headers of articles before they get automated to the newspaper’s RSS feeds. I hope lessons can be learned by my case – but I doubt I’ll be the last person to be libelled in this way.”

Independent apologises for ‘seriously defamatory’ headline

Independent News & Media has apologised for a “seriously defamatory” headline on a comment piece by blogger and writer Zoe Margolis published in the Independent on Sunday [see background here]. In a correction published on its site today, the newspaper said:

On 7 March 2010, we published an article by Zoe Margolis. In part of the first edition of the newspaper and online, this article carried the headline, “I was a hooker who became an agony aunt”. This was written by the newspaper not Ms Margolis. We accept that Ms Margolis is not and never has been “a hooker” or otherwise involved in the sex industry. The wording of the headline was a mistake and seriously defamatory of Ms Margolis. We offer our sincere apologies to Ms Margolis for the damage to her reputation and the distress and embarrassment which she has suffered.

Blogger to pursue legal action over Independent on Sunday headline

Last Sunday, writer and author Zoe Margolis was shocked to discover that the headline on her own opinion piece about the portrayal of women in the media for the Independent on Sunday, wrongly described her as a prostitute.

The headline was changed for later editions of the paper. An online version of the headline has now been changed to ‘I’m a good-time girl who became an agony aunt’, with the same article. The original version remained live on the mobile site for some time, before being removed.

Margolis now intends to pursue legal action, her spokesperson confirmed to Journalism.co.uk.

“Zoe has never worked in the sex industry and has worked hard to establish her writing as something distinct to it.”

Margolis said: “I’m absolutely distraught by this damage to my reputation both professionally and personally. Unfortunately this situation just shows how much work still needs to be done to challenge the sexism of the media in their conflation of female sexual desire with the sex industry.”

Margolis, keeps a successful blog about her sex life, originally anonymously as Abby Lee, and then under her real name once she was exposed by the Sunday Times in 2006. Her second book was published this week.

Her spokesperson said that the incident had revealed an “undercurrent of sexism”. It illustrated the very point that Margolis was trying to make, she said: “that if you are a woman, writing about sex openly, it is very likely you will be labelled with negative terminology”.

“Zoe believes women are chastised or labelled for expressing their sexual desires and that this needs to be opposed.”

Twitter users following Margolis on Sunday were shocked by the headline, particularly ahead of a week used to mark women’s rights, International Women’s Day (IWD).

“The eve of IWD & @girlonetrack is subject of vile SIndy h/lines for a positive piece on writing on sexuality & feminism,” tweeted @emmagillan.

The Independent on Sunday did not wish to comment at this stage.

Currybet.net: Journalists in the comment box

What happens when journalists jump in the comment box? Martin Belam picks up on the way outed sex blogger Zoe Margolis responded to Guardian commenters’ criticism after her quick post on the unmasking of Belle du Jour.

Belam writes:

“What interested me here was that I think it illustrates something about the respective culture of ‘blogger’ versus ‘journalist who has comments enabled at the bottom of their articles’.”

As information architect for the Guardian, Belam has an interesting take on the technological aspect too.

Full post at this link…

Right of a blogger’s anonymity: a selection of views

Since this week’s ruling that NightJack, winner of the Orwell Prize’s first political blogging award, could not remain anonymous was announced – summed up  by Paul Bradshaw here –  bloggers, commentators and commenters have typed furiously (a few the links at the end of this post). Has the Times been hypocritical? What are the implications for those working and writing about life in the public sector? Should one be able to protect one’s identity as a blogger… or journalist?

The only thing Journalism.co.uk will add is this insight into the Times’ investigative process of the case, as provided by the Times:

“The action arose after Patrick Foster, a Times journalist, identified the NightJack blogger ‘by a process of deduction and detective work, mainly using information on the internet,’ the judge said.”

“Mr Horton was adamant that he had taken great pains to keep his identity secret. But on his blog, he also described his visits to a jiu-jitsu club, adding a hyperlink to the website of the organising body for the martial art. Lancashire Constabulary jiu-jitsu club lists only one member who is a detective – Detective Constable Richard Horton.”

Some of the wider discussion:

Finally, Horton’s Orwell Prize win as reported by Journalism.co.uk in April 2009:

“Anonymous blogger ‘Jack Night’ took the award in the blogging category, for his site NightJack.  In a speech made on his behalf, Jack said the last year had seen blogging become a more important part of the political reporting world. The blogger, who ended his posting after being shortlisted for the award, donated his prize to the Police Dependants’ Trust.”