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AN OPEN REPLY TO NEIL CAMERON AT THE HERALD

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MANY of you know ‘cartuja’ from Twitter. Today he has requested that CQN provides him with a platform to publish an open reply to The Herald’s Neil Cameron. We are happy to assist…
An open reply to Neil Cameron…
Not one to take myself too seriously let alone anything related to Scottish Football and the media circus which engulfs/manipulates/damages it (delete as applicable), I hesitated to write down my response to Neil Cameron of The Herald’s pointed comments which appeared in his Saturday Diary, but it so misrepresented what my ‘persona’ online is (parodying/satirising how a new football club has been propped up and projected as something it patently is not) and how the discussion played out between us, I felt I should take the opportunity to have my right to reply. 

I asked one simple question of him and this seems to have hit a raw nerve despite the fact that I was non-abusive, respectful and in no way bigoted or sectarian in my pursuit of a straightforward answer. 

If a newspaper journalist in a promoted position cannot separate out the abusive, bigoted trolls from those of us with a genuine interest in the relationship between the Press/Media with that of PR Consultancies, you really have to wonder what the future holds for the Scottish news and sports journalism/reporting industry.


Dear Neil,

I felt I had to put my thoughts down in writing after reading your diary entry printed in the national broadsheet paper, The Herald, which openly referred to our exchange on social media in the most scathing terms.

I have to say, my first reaction was one of surprise that a simple, legitimate question could accelerate to the level of you characterising me as having the potential to be a serial killer. That’s the sort of hyperbole that you’d traditionally expect to be the preserve of tabloid journalism. My second reaction was dismay.

You used your diary piece to attack me and other Twitter users in general, to create an impression of a homogeneous mass of abusive/obsessive crackpots out to cause untold harm to reasonable people. 

What happened to prompt that (we’ll call it a) rant? Well, from a quick check on the discourse between us on PR companies having undue influence on journalists’ output, I can’t find a single tweet from me which was either offensive or even slightly disparaging of yourself. In fact, it was quite the contrary (I even congratulated you on your promotion).

It was established very early in the exchange that you have never accepted stories from Jim Traynor (Level5 PR) and run with them, at least not since you worked under him. “I have never once did this [sic]. Apart from when he was my boss. It was pretty unavoidable then”. That’s as unequivocal a distancing from Jim Traynor, as you are ever likely to see. I never challenged your assertion or made comment on it from a contrary position or even in a mocking manner. Not once.

What I did do was to ask your opinion on journalists taking stories from Jim Traynor, a man who had previously berated his ‘fellow journalists’  in very derogatory terms. Now, at this point, a simple ‘I don’t think they should publish stories from Jim Traynor.’ or ‘It’s a part of the industry and I accept that it needs to happen for newspapers to thrive.’ or whatever your point of view actually is, would have sufficed. The responses that I received from you were perhaps more illuminating that you intended them to be.

When I asked again, after a few weeks of trying, your response was not to give a straight answer but that I should “get a life, mate”.

Your next  response was strange, to say the least…

“Burdon of proof on you. Prove that has ever happened. Don’t just say it…prove it.”

Firstly, there is no sense to this statement. It doesn’t even have a context within my tweets. I was asking your point of view. I wasn’t stating any facts or directing any accusation at you. Prove what has ever happened? “Don’t just say it…prove it.” Prove that I was asking for your opinion? Makes no sense.

When I read that tweet it kind of made me think of a conversation which goes something like this…

Q: ’Hey, what about that murder up in Airdrie on Friday?’

A: ‘I was up in Cumbernauld all night with the missus. You can ask her, if you don’t believe me.’

The next response from you was probably the most (accidentally) telling.

“What do you do for a living and what is your name?”

Well, what can you say about that? As a device to try and shut down this particular debate on social media, that was pretty poor. Apart from betraying a lack of understanding of how social media works, it was disingenuous.

When a journalist argues that any point you are making is nullified by the ‘anonymity’, they are pointedly ignoring the fact that, historically and to this day, it has been the modus operandi of the newspaper industry since, at least the 19th century, for titles to use pseudonym bylines in order to avoid personal attacks on the author or avoid attributable retribution as a consequence of publishing. It was hardly invented with the internet. There are plenty of examples from the past and it could be argued that it was a necessary and legitimate course of action. If women in the 1880s hadn’t published stories under pseudonyms about the immoral practices of doctors earning big money from persuading patients to pay large amounts to get abortions, they would have been in grave personal danger and we may still have had professional profiteering from the troubles of vulnerable young women. I don’t suppose ‘The Diner Tec’ was ever in any serious danger apart from the possibility of eating a dodgy prawn but, as with Twitter, there are a multitude of reasons why people keep their real identity private. 

As I write this, a Tweeter (Celtic fan and major fundraiser) has just posted that she has contact the Police about threats she has received on social media. Their concern is not only that the threats have come from someone who knows who they are but also where they live. And, as many could testify, this is by no means a unique scenario over the last 5 or 6 years.

And besides, you evidently engage with ‘anonymous’ people on Twitter all the time. You couldn’t use Twitter if you didn’t. When does it become a problem for you? When you don’t like the question? When you want to close down the debate? When you can’t sneer at unnecessarily abusive posts? Looking back, it seems strange that you were happy to readily answer (and sometimes retweet) accusatory and abusive tweets from others whilst ignoring my perfectly respectful tweets.

To pick out my post, particularly, whilst your timeline was, no doubt, full of vitriolic and sneering attacks on you, seems a strange one. I was probably in a small minority of people who were neither abusive nor sneering towards you. In fact, I defended your position when it was suggested that ‘all journalists’ get their stories from Jim Traynor. Could it be that my question made for uncomfortable reading, for whatever reason? Uncomfortable enough to prompt the personal attack (“that’s what serial killers say”), in your newspaper? My suggestion to meet up with you was to help overcome the problem that my ‘anonymity’ seemed to be causing you. Showing good faith, if you like.

Who would have thought that my original, straightforward question… “Is there a consensus amongst journalists about accepting stories from him (Jim Traynor), after such scathing criticism of the profession?” would trigger a reaction which has led to a broadsheet newspaper journalist using his title as a platform to try and shut down debate over the influence, undue or otherwise, of a particularly high profile Glasgow PR consultancy, on the journalism profession in Scotland? 

A personal attack in another medium is still a personal attack. If you have aspirations to be a widely-respected journalist, then that kind of ‘diary’ piece is surely beneath you?

Oh, and if you are reading this Neil, ‘What is your opinion on journalists accepting and running with stories from Jim Traynor?

Yours respectfully,

‘cartuja’

P.S.: I do not blog or troll and neither am I bigoted or hard of thinking. Thank you to CQN for giving me a platform for my right to reply.
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