After BuzzFeed UK ran its hatchet job on the Observer’s Carol Cadwalladr, the reaction of those in and around the press establishment was most instructive: those within that establishment needed no prompting to line up behind the article, with the impression that some of those so doing had not actually read it. Only those not so privileged saw it for what it was. And it was those in the latter category who are being proved right.
We can deduce that from the subsequent actions of those at BuzzFeed, or perhaps that should be lack of actions. Mentions of the article have dried up. One of those called out by Zelo Street for being rather more deeply involved than he is prepared to admit, Alex “Billy Liar” Wickham, former teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, has gone very quiet indeed - as have some of his colleagues.
Ms Cadwalladr, not unreasonably, has taken issue with the article and submitted a list of corrections to it - a list which, I am reliably informed, is on the long side. Her preference is to resolve the matter amicably, rather than going to law. But BuzzFeed’s response has thus far been that there has been no response. There’s professionalism for you.
David Amerland identified the issue very clearly: “We are in one of the most critical moment in our history for democracy and women's rights and @BuzzFeed chooses to do a hatchet job on @carolecadwalla who was instrumental in blowing Cambridge Analytica & Russian connection wide open: https://bzfd.it/2PdGgHK Why? #makesnosense”.
But after Ms Cadwalladr had responded “Ah, thanks so much David. And yes, it's funny (not funny) the way this story intersects with those two strands. Thanks for the support”, the exasperation with BuzzFeed became clear. “Dear @Buzzfeed, will *someone* please respond to my emails/messages/calls. I'm really not trying to be ‘difficult’. I'm just trying to get in touch. Thank you”. What does that remind you of? Did someone say “Fawkes”?
At least Peter Aldhous at BuzzFeed was prepared to ask Ms Cadwalladr who she wanted to speak to, and about what. Her reply lays out what will inevitably happen if the calls keep going unanswered. “Thanks Peter. I've been trying to get in touch with @janinegibson & @stuartmillar all day regarding the article that was published about me on Friday. I wanted to give @buzzfeed chance to respond before taking any further action”.
Why would she take further action? Peter Jukes has given a rather large hint as to why that might happen. “Every major assertion in that piece is false. Buzzfeed is refusing to respond to corrections it seems”. Even papers like the Mail and Telegraph, whose complaints handlers are infamously difficult in their tendency to claim that the most blatant whoppers are the unvarnished truth, are prepared to engage with correction requests.
And unless BuzzFeed begins to behave like a grown-up publisher, it may find itself taken to law. If Jukes’ assertion is provably true, then it could get not only expensive for them, but also embarrassing to the point of sinking their reputation yet further.
So, BuzzFeed people, you have to ask yourselves one question. Do you feel … lucky?
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