That Resignation Email & The Death Of Journalism

Update Weds 26th September 5.05am PST: I’m not publishing any more comments (or gossip) about the individuals involved or any opinion on whether the allegations are true or not. As I’ve said we don’t know if they are. That’s not the point of this post. It’s an opinion piece on the “evolution” of social media and news, not a playground for internet trolls.


Anyone in the media industry in the UK, if not the world, has been exposed today to the #Shicklegate social media explosion radiating out of London right now.

A disgruntled employee resigns and sends out an email with a flurry of accusations about the conduct of their boss. Someone sticks it on Dropbox and it goes viral…….in a big way.

Thousands of people have commented on Twitter using the hashtag and probably millions of Twitter accounts have been reached as a result.

As many are pointing out, this sad episode just goes to show the power of Twitter if the content is juicy enough, regardless of whether it is true or not.


The Sun has run an article which it has now taken down. There’s already a Hitler “Downfall” video live on Dailymotion, but I gather that’s been deleted too.

I think it’s sad because two people’s careers may lay in tatters.

Shickle’s because whatever he says in his defence, it’s unlikely anyone will fully believe him, and Allen because he’ll probably get sued if these allegations are not true, and who’s going to want to work with someone who appears to be logging your every move anyway?

What else lays in tatters is the reputation of journalism for going after page views in lieu of actually checking facts. I know it’s The Sun we’re talking about, but still, the attitude of “publish” and then “oops sorry, unpublish” is starting to wear a little thin.

This one’s set to roll with a lot of Tweets asking if the BBC will talk about it on tonight’s news in the UK.

Let’s hope not eh?

There’s plenty more wrong with the world without worrying about this little spat.


  • Sean Fleming (@flemingsean)

    It’s not the job of journalists (or the role of journalism) to protect anyone’s reputation.

    You have a point about the over-eagerness to publish without fact-checking and so on. That, to me, seems to be the interesting point… did anyone at the Sun stop to check there was actually a Kieren Allen who worked at MEC? Did anyone attempt to verify the email’s provenance?

    I doubt it. THAT is the death of journalism. You can’t realistically attack publishers for trying to boost reader and traffic numbers in a world where the likes of Google (and MS Advertising for that matter) have changed the game forever – I offer no comment on whether that is a good or a bad thing. It’s just the way it is.

    There are far worse examples of link-bait being used as an excuse for journalism than this story, however.

    Reply Posted 12 years ago
  • Mel Carson

    Agree re fact-checking Sean – I wasn’t saying it’s their job to protect people’s reputations though. It’s the “publish now ask questions later” attitude that pervades the industry that irritates me.

    Reply Posted 12 years ago
  • ano

    You appear to be jumping on the bandwagon just as much as they are! Surely if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem. Let’s be honest you wrote and seeded this blog post to get readers, did you not?

    With regards to the story I know for a fact it is real and that at least some of the stuff in it is true due to knowing people involved.

    I would also pose the question did the sun pull the story due to threats about group m reducing and spend if they didn’t?

    Reply Posted 12 years ago
  • Mel Carson

    Hello Anon (!) I thought long and hard about writing anything, but as social media is my business – – and I have readers who want my opinion I felt I should comment on it.

    You’ll notice I don’t link to the offending email so people landing here are just reading my thoughts on the sad affair.

    As to why The Sun pulled it, we may never know, but a number of reasons seem plausible.

    My point was to highlight how this episode shows the intersection of social media and “news” can be blurred in a negative way.

    Negative for everyone, whether allegations are true or not.

    Reply Posted 12 years ago
  • Steve

    I suspect it’s more a case of The Sun have been warned to take it down or MEC’s parent group will reduce their advertising spend with them.

    Reply Posted 12 years ago
    • Anon

      Advertising spend is unfortunately the death of journalism in this case.

      Reply Posted 12 years ago
    • Anon

      With News Int being a client of one of GroupM’s agencies, wouldn’t it be unlikely that they’d disrupt relations within the advertising/marketing areas? I imagine the whole arbitrage thing is finely balanced anyway, with lots of money involved so I doubt they would seek to unsettle this.

      Probably more of a legal / PR led thing operating at a different level like they’ve done with all the other media outlets they could find.

      Reply Posted 12 years ago
  • Jim Williams

    You reap what you sow.
    This sort of manager is ten a penny and he got his desserts.

    Reply Posted 12 years ago
  • Ed Duncan

    I’m the first to denigrate irresponsible journalism, but the story here was an employee had send a vaguely insane all-staff resignation e-mail. That he made the accusations is a fact. Whether they are true or not I have no idea (and neither I suspect do The Sun). As long as the article in question clearly identifies them as allegations rather than proven facts then I don’t see how this represents an example of poor fact checking.

    There is of course a bigger issue which you allude to here. The death-grip of ever decreasing newsroom budgets and the need for more and continuous content, gives us the replacement of “rigorous journalism” with “browsingTwitter”. This is absolutely rampant, especially with TV news, where stories are padded with sometimes minutes on end of the tweeted reactions of various celebrities. Now THAT represents the death of journalism…

    Reply Posted 12 years ago
  • James Taylor

    it’s interesting that when tabloids print something ethically or morally (or legally) dubious, in that grey area, they defend themselves by saying “It’s in the public interest”.

    Except, in this case, when it appears that a main source of advertising revenue isn’t happy with them. Then it’s no longer “…in the public interest”.

    I’m kinda glad this will probably be, with plummeting revenues and mounting losses, the last decade of mass newspaper publishing.

    Reply Posted 12 years ago
  • Mel Carson

    BTW I’m not publishing any more comments (or gossip) about the individuals involved or any opinion on whether the allegations are true or not. As I’ve said we don’t know if they are. That’s not the point of this post. It’s an opinion piece on the “evolution” of social media and news, not a playground for internet trolls.

    Reply Posted 12 years ago
    • anon

      Mel. If social media is your business, and this is how you feel about journalism, then aren’t you in the wrong job? Social Media is clearly one long car smash in terms of media culture. I’d buy a small holding if it hurts you this much.

      Reply Posted 12 years ago
      • Mel Carson

        I’m in the perfect job. I spent the last 7 years doing good things for people using social media, and am well qualified to comment when the less than positive nature of that phenomena shines through. Journalism as an industry needs to take even more responsibility for fact-checking and establishing credible sources because of social media. It doesn’t have to be a car crash either. Buy “You Are Not a Gadget” by Jaron Lanier and reflect a little on what he has to say. BTW I can see your IP address. Bit baffled as to why you want to stay “anaon”!

        Posted 12 years ago
  • Matthew

    In my opinion, I don’t think the reputation of journalism is in tatters because they ran this story before checking facts. Broadcast and print media constantly run stories which are prefaced with “unverified reports” – and in some cases withdraw the news item (even with a retraction notice at times). If a story reaches a level of critical mass be it on social media, word of mouth, on the street etc (as this one did in my opinion) newspapers are well within their remit to publish it.

    Reply Posted 12 years ago

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