Writing for The Daily Mail

Anyone who has ever written a feature for the Daily Mail knows what it feels like. You only have to read the features pages to understand that something strange is going on – lots of first person pieces all written in the same style, with the same vocabulary, the same mawkish self-revelatory nature and bizarre turn of phrase. Who are these people who all write exactly alike, suffer bereavements, mental health problems, addictions and family troubles, wear brightly-coloured dresses and too much make-up?

Well, we are the unprincipled writers who will do almost anything for the money. The Mail is the only paper that still pays decent rates and so we email them, call them and go into the office to meet them, desperately hoping that our own first person trauma will take the commissioning editor’s fancy. I drink a lot! My dad died! I’ve had Botox!

I noticed recently that The Mail was running lots of stories about female journalists going off to war though their children begged them not to. Reading these pieces, I can hear the Daily Mail commissioner sending the journalist’s first person copy back to her with the questions in bold: ‘PLEASE INSERT A LINE ABOUT HOW YOUR CHILDREN FEEL ABOUT YOUR JOB WHEN YOU LEAVE FOR A WAR. ARE THEY UPSET? HOW OLD ARE THEY? WHAT ARE THEIR NAMES? HOW DOES YOUR HUSBAND FEEL ABOUT IT ALL?’ (The gaze of the man is on all Daily Mail women, from the too-fat/too-thin celebrities to the ideal housewife in lavender, from dowdy politicians to sponging, single mothers).

Then, in this strange and brainwashy way, the war correspondent, who wants the cash and has a book out, herself writes a tortuous Daily Mail sentence something like this: ‘When I left to cover the recent conflict in HellHole last week my children, Amy, 5, and Ben, 12, begged me not to go; my husband, Luke, is more sanguine.’  The Daily Mail commissioner will cut the word sanguine, replace it with the word ‘resigned’ and add a few other words that render the sentence meaningless – and perhaps even a cheeky little exclamation mark: ‘My long-suffering husband, Luke, is, thank goodness, rather more used to my peccadilloes!’

I knew all this, but I still quite wanted to write my piece. My own father was a war correspondent, killed on the job in El Salvador in 1989. I feel sad for the kids left behind by war correspondents, male and female, and I wanted to write about that from the perspective of an anxious child, watching the news, hoping their parent will come home safely. It seemed perfect – a story I actually wanted to write and some decent pay for a change. I emailed Femail at The Daily Mail. The idea was taken to conference and I got a quick reply – they wanted 1800 words focusing on my feelings when my father was away and my feelings now about war correspondents leaving their children.

I wrote the piece, slightly embarrassed about having churned out yet another piece about my dad. His death has defined my whole life and I write about little else. The same picture, provided by myself, always gets used with the story (a lovely photo that his girlfriend, Shirley, took of me and dad in Greece in 1982) and I can hear my friends groan at reading the same old crap again (a few friends in particular). But, what the hell, I need the work and this was a slightly different point really – about life not being in the extremes of war and death, but in the boring bits in between, the bits you miss if you don’t show up. That’s what’s sad about leaving your kids behind for war – something I personally chose not to do when I had the very brief (and usually regretted) opportunity.

A few days after filing I got my copy back with massive edits in block capitals throughout the text. ‘HOW DID YOU FEEL?’ ‘HOW DOES YOUR HUSBAND FEEL?’ The capitals were things the person working on my piece wanted me to add.  However, the rest of the text had been heavily cut and rewritten, but the changes were unmarked. If I’d been in a hurry I could easily have missed them. Lines like; ‘I strongly disagree with Janine di Giovanni,’ (I don’t) and ‘That made me sit bolt upright’ (it didn’t) had been inserted.

Bear in mind, this was an emotional first person piece, so to slip in first person additions about feelings this copy editor had obviously not had, and under my name, was distinctly odd.  I mentioned this to her and she said, very sweetly, that these were only suggestions and I must, of course, write in my own voice. Fair enough, I thought. Oh, and I was instructed that the paper does not begin paragraphs with the letter ‘I’, even as the first letter of a longer word. The copy editor herself admitted that this was weird.

So, I reworked the piece as requested, hardly noticing that instead of reworking the piece I had written myself, I was now reworking the someone else’s reworking – restructured, heavily cut and angled as an attack on women leaving their children for war. Don’t get me wrong – I hate to see people macho-ing off to have fun in the basement bar of a war -torn hotel, feeling at the centre of life and death, important, endangered, living for the moment…adrenalin addiction blah blah blah. But I’m only jealous really, and feel left behind even by people to whom I’m not remotely related.  The attack on Janine di Giovanni (a friend and a brilliant journalist who can live her life exactly as she chooses, without any input from me, obviously) kept reappearing and I kept deleting it.

I deleted it a few times too many and the piece I had thought hard about and cared very much about got spiked. I knew it had been spiked because, after a flurry of frantic emails back and forth as deadline approached, The Mail suddenly stopped replying to my messages about the piece. Eventually, still desperate to insert a line about Harry Evans making a speech at my father’s funeral about why journalism is worth dying for (oh, please), I received this: ‘Just to keep you in the loop, the piece is not in tomorrow’s paper but will be relisted next week and beyond if need be. Do speak to X if you have any queries then.’

I emailed X about invoicing for a kill fee (since now it was as near explicit as they get that the article had been killed), but I got no reply. Over the past ten years or so it has become acceptable simply to ignore correspondence from journalists as a way of rejecting their pitches, or even, in my recent experience, as a painless way of sacking them from a regular slot after years of working together. It is hard even to feel properly upset about it, as it’s just the deal these days.

Of course, the spike meant that I didn’t get to the next phase of feature writing for The Mail –  being styled and photographed. There is a tacit understanding (whether true or false in actuality) that the editor of The Daily Mail doesn’t like women to appear on the pages of the paper wearing either trousers or dark colours. Last time I was styled for them someone came round with a rack of red and purple evening dresses and lots of matching satin shoes. Just have a look at the paper and you’ll see that this is something of a theme.

Anyway, the whole experience was so depressing that I pitched this here article to a  magazine I thought might like it. The editor sympathised with my experience  and had, indeed, once shared it, however, they couldn’t take the Mail-bashing piece because it might start people complaining about their own editorial practices. She said The Mail quite often bought pieces from her magazine, tried to get the journalist to rewrite in weirdy Mail style and from weirdy Mail angle (ideally starting what they would probably call a ‘cat fight’) and then spiked them if ‘the writer wouldn’t play ball.’

I won’t drag anyone else in here, but I have lots of journalist friends who have been invited to stitch themselves up, expose themselves far beyond what they intended and make themselves look stupid in words and pictures all for a bit of book publicity and a few hundred quid. I am not denying that we do this to ourselves, but the process is designed to produce an article that we did not initially know we were writing. It is a very complex deception. I now know that what they wanted from me was a piece saying; ‘How dare Janine di Giovanni and Alex Crawford leave their poor children to go away to war. They are women and should stay at home with the children.’ That’s not the piece I intended to write but that would have been the essence of the headline.

I am acutely aware that I will no longer be on the receiving end of that few hundred Associated Press quid and very welcome book publicity, but I have started to think that we shouldn’t do it and we shouldn’t keep quiet about it.

Just because our phones aren’t being hacked, doesn’t mean we haven’t been exposed and embarrassed in the press – we do it to ourselves without quite allowing ourselves to notice.

PS. I am 41, have just ‘penned’ another frivolous piece, am thinking of ‘stepping out’ in a new pair of shoes, worrying about ‘taking a tumble’, considering why I got sucked into ‘THAT’ correspondence and wondering; ‘Why the glum face, Mr Cameron?’ etc. etc. in Mail style ad nauseum.

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  • Jane Procter

    Jane Procter
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Brilliant

  • Shubnum
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Well done on you for writing this!

  • charlie JB gilmor
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I too have suffered at the hands of The Daily Mail.
    http://charliegilmour.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/day-22-2/

  • Kathryn Sassall
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Hi Anna

    What a truly remarkable piece of honest writing showing that we are often asked to speak with another voice in our work-places.

    That is why it is really important for us all to only work in those places where we share the same voice and passion.

    I used to have to do the same ‘rewrite’ of other people’s reports in the finance industry to get the voice that we knew the committee wanted (usually the man at the tops style) so that it would have an easier journey through the Board. Sad but true and unlike your piece we just had to reword fact rather than bring in any emotion.

    I will look out for your work and blogs in the knowledge that you are writing from the heart and being true to your values.

    All the best

    Kathryn

  • Dave B
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I’ve heard of the ‘no black clothes please’ before. As I understand it, it just doesn’t show up well in printed photos.

    Every magazine/newspaper has a style guide. I don’t see why the DM should be any different.

  • Clive Sheffield
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    The whole point of the Mail is that it’s a hugely successful commercial product staffed by some of the best journalists in the world, all of whom are paid to maintain its success.The DM has been presenting its view of the world (and that’s what it is) since Victorian times, and millions of people still pay to read it every day. If they’re not using your work it’s because they don’t think it’s interesting enough. Get over it, and find someone else to write for.

    P.S Janine de Giovanni is an excellent journalist, and it shows in all her pieces, including all those which have been ‘adapted’ to suit certain styles, or even (shock, horror!) those in which she might have been ‘encouraged’ to criticise someone or something. It’s called journalism, and professionals like Janine would be the last to whinge about about it.

  • Sarah Rately
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Well done Anna – best thing I’v read about depressing state of modern feature journalism for a long time. I have shared every experience you mention

  • Catharine Higginson
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Absolutely spot on as anyone who has written for the Mail will know. Love the ‘brightly coloured dresses and too much make-up’ – I scared my own children post a DM shoot.

  • Dr. Thropplenoggin
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Yoiks!

    Still, a long way to go until you steal the crown for Addlepate Of The Century from Miss Jinglebrains herself, Liz Jones!

  • tim footman
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Cheer up. At least they didn’t ask how much your house is worth.

  • Jennie M
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Anna, I knew your father very slightly in the 70s – he’d be proud of you for writing this. Your soul is worth far, far more than the paltry sum Associated Press was offering.
    @Dave B – a style guide is one thing, turning up with clothes for the subject to wear is quite another. Newspapers, in case you’ve forgotten, are supposed to print the truth.

  • Rhys
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Brilliant – Its the Daily Fail again – they do good value sudokus apparently but this is the paper that thot Hitler was ok

  • Treoteo
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Excellently written article, not that you need a critique from anyone.

  • Kilmacrenan
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Clearly the thing to do is take a leaf out of Johann Hari’s book – make up a completely fictitious feature that pushes all the Daily Mail’s buttons, and then spend the Associated Newspapers cheque on champagne to celebrate.

  • Rob J
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Dave B – slightly missing the point, aren’t you?

  • notjarvis
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    @Dave B

    There’s a clear difference between a style guide and putting words in someone’s mouth that they didn’t say.

    One is an understandable attempt to keep your publications writing consistent and up to a specific standard.

    One is a dishonest way to insert your point of view, and pass it off as someone else’s.

  • Zoe Williams
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    What a brilliant piece.

  • Chris Bidmead
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    These rags are sinking slowly, desperate editors in charge who think they know how to steer their vessels to safety in shallower water.

    Their self-delusion is killing what it was that once made newspapers like this worthwhile. The Web will drown them. This piece, just by being here, nicely demonstrates how this inevitability will come about.


    Chris

  • Bill Hagerty
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I would have published this had you not posted it. How about the original piece you submitted to the Mail? May I see that?
    Bill Hagerty
    Editor
    British Journalism Review

  • Joanne Mallon
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Bravo Anna!

  • Dave V
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Yes, Dave B, the Daily Mail “style guide” is a mixture of sexism, barely-hidden racism, and lies.

    What isn’t, and shouldn’t be, part of a style guide is coercion geared to forming a hate piece against a fellow journalist. For, essentially, being a woman.

    The Daily Mail, along with the Express and the Star, are the reasons the whole country sees journalists as worth little more than something one might pick up on one’s shoe. The sooner they all go though their own Hackgates the better for the press in this country.

  • John G
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    While this is a welcome exposition on the Daily Mail, why does anyone even consider taking the money for having their pieces doctored like this? Why hasn’t this been exposed before? If you tolerate this sort of crap you’re not much of a journalist in my opinion. Get a new job or write your own features.

  • Jane
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    So, basically, an editor at the Daily Mail edited your piece and then sent you back some queries. If you didn’t like the way that they were handling your copy why didn’t you just tell them to spike it? Then it didn’t get published and now you’re aggrieved. It all sounds like very sour grapes….and how do you equate this with hacking phones???

  • Cochis Paul
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I loved it. Excellent.

  • Geff
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    By A Blundy:
    ‘I was sitting on a friend’s terrace the other night surrounded by olive trees in big terracotta pots, stars flicking on one by one in the darkening sky and the (many) children watching Home Alone II projected on to a whole wall inside.
    My friend, who has a pale pink and green straw hat designed to look like a cabbage, though she was not wearing it, said:
    ‘I only find men attractive if they use language beautifully.’
    I picked at my melon rind and stared at the distant lights of my village across the mountains.

    What would you do? Attempt to

  • Yasin Akgun
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Brilliant article!

  • Alex
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Let’s face it, you tried to farm out your own grief for a quick buck and free PR, and you already knew what the DM was looking for. When you weren’t willing to play, you ended up with a lot of wasted time and no cash. I can’t find very much sympathy.

    The DM’s a cancer on modern life. Either accept that it hates working women (and working mothers twice as much) and do what it wants, or refuse to be involved. But don’t expect that it will suddenly stop being a monster for your benefit. That’s just foolish.

  • Anita G
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    A refreshing piece about the tensions between integrity and publicity/pay. I applaud your honesty.

  • Mat Baker
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    There is an old joke. A rich old man approaches a pretty young lady and asks if she will have sex with him for a million pounds. She thinks, and then agrees. He then says, actually, will you have sex with me for ten pounds? She is aghast and says, no, what do you think I am? To which he replies, we have already established what you are, now we are negotiating on the price.

    We are all that young lady, one way or another.

    Congrats to the OP here for not allowing the changes, and speaking out at the horrible DM practices, even though it clearly isn’t going to do her bank account a lot of good.

    All too often we compromise our ideals and principals in the name of money.

    I speak from experience, of course!

  • Shu
    6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Great piece Anna,

    The marriage of creativity (writing in your case, TV production in mine) and business is a tricky one. I get similarly frustrated trying to developing TV shows to a very specific brief based on someone’s preconceived notion of a subject; or having to include elements just because two people in a focus group said we should; or worse still being asked to re-edit something to portray a person in a bad light (I didn’t) to make it ‘edgier’.

    There has to be an editorial ‘vision’ to newspapers, magazines and TV but it means quality and content is focused in a very small group of hands.

    Long life the internet, I say, where we can say whatever (pretty much) we like!

    Shu

  • A fellow journalist
    6 months, 1 week ago

    This is a good piece of work, because it acknowledges your own weaknesses in wanting to have anything to do with an organ that is utterly discredited and beyond foul in its treatment of your fellow human beings (so why would it treat its employees any differently?).

    I wouldn’t worry about blowing your chances of future work with the Mail and take that as a blessing. Who wants to be associated with that level of contempt for people’s feelings and choices?

    For all that, this does indicate just how manipulative much mainstream media is. So thanks for being honest, because I doubt it’s easy to say what really went on in a story where you can’t escape some form of culpability. That’s quite brave, I think. Thank you.

  • Rosie Millard
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Dear Anna
    This is a totally brilliant piece. I too was asked (3 weeks ago) to jazz up a piece I had originally written for the Times about forcing my children to play musical instruments.
    The Mailification essentially needed to go along the lines of: ‘I hothouse my children because I felt guilty leaving them to a nanny when I was the BBC’s Arts Correspondent’ – exactly the same requests, in caps, for ‘personal feelings’,etc etc, which I really didn’t have. I don’t hothouse my kids. I urge them to practise their instruments because I don’t want to waste money on lessons for unpractised instruments, also they quite enjoy it when they get down to it. End of saga. No the piece has not seen the light of day. Well done you for bringing the whole sorry thing into the light. Rosie Millard

  • Eccentrica
    6 months, 1 week ago

    This is an interesting article and there are lots of details in here that I didn’t know.

    HOWEVER, wrt this bit:

    “I now know that what they wanted from me was a piece saying; ‘How dare Janine di Giovanni and Alex Crawford leave their poor children to go away to war. They are women and should stay at home with the children.’ That’s not the piece I intended to write but that would have been the essence of the headline.”

    Really, what did you expect from the DM? Their ideology is hardly subtle.

  • Charlie
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Good article.

    Incidentally, I used to read and enjoy your regular Times column nearly 20 years ago and have read a few things you’ve written recently in Prospect and had no idea you lost your father while you were young. So you can’t have been banging on about it that much.

  • Pitching the World
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Splendid piece Anna. I’ve written for the Mail onc or twice before simply because the money is so good. Comparitively. Reading this has cemented my opinion to never do so again. Can’t quite articulate why. Am very drunk. What I’m doing on here when very drunk is anyone’s guess. Anyway, thanks.

  • Julie
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Thanks for writing this. It’s truly astonishing how many people the Mail seems to stitch up without reply.

    I refuse to even click on a link to the website now, as that seems to be the way they are going. Just can’t believe they can get women to write for them still. But as long as they develop their US-tailored gossip site I suppose they can get away with it.

    How depressing. I applaud your honesty.

  • Angus Watson
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Spot on. I’m a freelance features writer. I haven’t written a feature I’m proud of for a national paper for two years. An interview I wrote for the Mail a few months ago was spiked when I refused to rewrite it to Mail specs. The guy had said he quite like raspberry jam, for example. The Mail wanted me to say he was obsessed with it.
    When I started eight or so years ago, editors were polite and decent. Now, with few exceptions, they have two modes – indifferent (no reply to emails or phone messages) or apeshit (demanding ridiculous last minute changes on copy they’ve held for months), and happy to, for example, reduce or not pay fees without telling you.
    I daresay it’s because newspapers are in so much trouble and they’re all under the cosh. It’s a shame. I used to think I had the best job in the world. Now I’m looking for other things to do.

  • Mat Snow
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Spot on. Just say no, fellow hacks.

    The only time I ever got professionally involved with those snakes I got off lightly.

    In around 1998 I was called up by someone I’d never heard of from the Mail after some bit of nonsense I’d written about my glamorous bachelor lifestyle (in itself, a gross exaggeration, mostly consisting of such advice as ‘fill ‘em full of Chardonnay and they’ll be flat on the lino before you can say Anne Robinson’ ) appeared in a now-defunct men’s mag.

    Could I rewrite it shorter? Could they send round a snapper? Could they fill my pockets with gold?

    Yes, yes and yes.

    I must say that when the snapper turned up at my workplace in order to picture me looking like a man of decision and raffish appeal, his look of disappointment at the actuality was something to behold.

    Anyway, the story came as part of a centre spread where I found myself teamed with profiles of two other blokes, one, I recall, being miilionaire entrepreneur Jamie Palumbo. We were headlined ‘Are these the most eligible bachelors in London?’ or somesuch — I rather suspect my job was to make the other two look even richer, more chiselled and eligible.

    The hilarious disbelief around my workplace when the piece came out was more than enough for me, and I refrained from urging my nearest and dearest to read all about it.

    Even so, my mother’s cousin phoned her that morning, and the spread stayed propped up on my parents’ mantelpiece until the yellowed pages disintegrated, to my dad’s relief as, unlike my mother, he clearly felt that this was not my finest hour.

    And when, three days after the piece came out, I put in an appearance at the pub in Tottenham I’ve been going to for years on football match days, I was the target of the most unrelenting satire and banter which only softened after, what with rubbing shoulders these days with Jamie Palumbo, I’d had to buy a couple of very pricey rounds; I’m sure it was never like that for Errol Flynn.

    And the ladies? Did they beat a path to my door as a result of this gigantic free ad for my charms? Did they heck.

    Mail readers may well be so steeped in self-loathing and insecurity that their daily paper meets a profound psychological need despite (because of?) its pathological misogyny. But they’re not that desperate.

  • Amanda C
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Very good honest piece. I’m happy to write for the Mail occasionally (they’ve just paid my vet’s bill for poor elderly uninsured dog in fact) as long as it doesn’t intrude on my family’s privacy or contradict my political views. It does feel like supping with the Devil though I have no objections to being styled by them as my usual look is of someone who has dragged themselves backwards out of a bush….Also, they are extremely polite, offer more than most other papers and an amazing number of people seem to read it.

  • Shubunkin Singh
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Yes, Anna. This is a marvellous piece of honesty. Well done.

    However, is it not worth pointing out that perhaps the Mail wanted a different story from you this time considering you already wrote a straight piece about your father’s death for them in 2008?

    See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1086694/This-life-Anna-Blundy-death-father.html

    And they even took a picture of you wearing dark colours!

  • Stephen D
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Excellent piece Anna, most of us expect this kind of thing from the Mail but I and my fellow hack friends have had similar experiences on other papers – including The Guardian and The Times. This is not just about fitting in with an in-house style, it is tinkering with personal stories to fit an editor’s pre-scripted narrative and, often, creepy political agenda. Orwellian.

  • Anna Blundy
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Thank you for these, everyone! I’m not sure if this is the best way to reply to comments, but am hoping you will see it, somehow. Hugely appreciate all the support and love some of the stories. The bachelor styling is particularly brilliant. Even the sad mean comments are hilarious – especially the slightly pompous one about the excellence of Mail standards that sounds like a shady executive pretending to be a real person. Brilliant! So, thank you again. Anna

  • Jane Procter

    Jane Procter
    6 months, 1 week ago

    As a journalist who sued associated and won a retraction, correction and damages I am really enjoying this daily hate hate-fest

  • Old Hack
    6 months, 1 week ago

    The dirty secret of all freelancers (and indeed staffers) is that we have all written for the Mail at sometime – even if it is under a pseudonym (as it was in my case) because they pay so damn well.

    I don’t suppose any of us are proud of it …

  • Clive Sheffield
    6 months, 1 week ago

    I’ve never written for the Mail in my life, and never would. I just think that people slagging it off after, er, writing articles for it, makes them sound hopelessly naive (not to say, with respect, deeply hypocritical).

    Hating the Daily Mail is like hating big, successful media beasts like BskyB – anybody can do it and many do, but when the faux outrage comes from hacks who have spent years churning out lucrative bilge for assorted media corporations (they are all as cynical as each other, low-circulation, failing ones like the Grauniad included) – it all looks rather pathetic….And, yes, I’m a pompous QC, now that you ask – sorry I can’t spread the love, but a client referred me to what you’d written and I wasn’t too impressed. If you and your ‘angry bloggers’ fan club haven’t got stuck into fat cat barristers yet, then now’s your chance…..

  • crawfora6
    6 months, 1 week ago

    As one of the potential intended targets of your piece could i just say thank you for resisting. Alex Crawford

  • Anna Blundy
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Hello Clive. I hope the fact that I’ve worked for lots of not very good papers and done what they wanted IS incorporated into the piece – I’m very clear about the fact that I want the money, volunteer myself and will do very nearly anything for it (just not openly slag off friends) though if they’d paid me a bit more I might’ve…. And at no point do I say I hate the Mail. I’ve had similar experiences all over the place. I quite enjoy parts of the Mail but, as you say, they’re all pretty much the same and I’ve worked for most of them. I try very hard not to write anything that I think of as ‘bilge’ though (of course, that’s open to readers’ debate) – I wrote some quite good opeds when I was Times Moscow correspondent. And, even when something is in the first person and seems introspective, the idea is that it reaches out to some ordinary women who will feel less alone on reading it. I’m not sure why ‘angry bloggers’ needs inverted commas. I mean, they really ARE angry bloggers! Anyway, I largely agree with you, as you might notice on your fourth or, perhaps, fifth rereading….? Can’t spread the love? Oh, go on…..I’ll do it for you..xx

  • janine di giovanni
    6 months, 1 week ago

    only just saw this today. what an honest, beautifully written (and funny!) piece. you named and shamed them and did it with dignity – your dad would be very proud of you indeed, anna. you rock! xx janine

  • anonymous
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Thank you for writing this. Although I’ve avoided the Daily Mail, the company I currently work for routinely engages in a slightly less egregious version of trying to change the tone and opinion of a piece to fit whatever our cocaine-enthusiast boss wants to see between one bump and the next. Three more years until retirement. Just three more years.

  • Al
    6 months, 1 week ago

    Clive Sheffield, you silly boy. The Mail (which has been putting forward the EXACT SAME point of view since Victorian times) is full of poorly written, blatantly made-up stories that are invariably focussed more on the perceived value of the subjects’ homes rather than the subjects themselves and it is only read by mentally deficient old farts of a certain income bracket who like to play at being much richer than they really are. Think ‘failed buy-to-let landlord’ and you’ll be spot on.
    Real people don’t read the Daily Mail, ergo you are not a real person, merely a stereotyped caricature that got loose from somewhere.

    Now go away, you grotty lower-middle class oik.

  • Anna Minton
    5 months, 2 weeks ago

    Great piece. An everyday experience in lifestyle journalism. That’s the story that isn’t reported.

  • simon jordan
    5 months, 2 weeks ago

    Great piece Anna,

    I wonder what is the real purpose of journalism. Is it to uphold bigoted and distorted opinions that then influence the readers or is it to strip away the Bs and without concern for reputation or career to tell the truth and expose the lies.
    I believe most journalists do their best but editors are loathsome.

    Time to start your own newspaper Anna.

    Disgusted but not surprised

    Simon Jordan

  • Janett Kreamer
    3 months ago

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  • Laura Marcus
    6 days, 2 hours ago

    Great piece! Thanks Anna.

  • Chris Smith
    5 days, 15 hours ago

    This was just the sort of thing I needed to read to be honest with you. I am just getting into journalism, and I find it a real paradox. On the one hand, you love to write, and to edit, and to interact, you love that the entire craft of journalism is not only so adrenalising but also so constant. But then there are the sort of shoddy, lousy, anti-journalistic practices you discuss.
    Of course there are many relevant factors but I view it all as a fan of writing. The sort of sickly filtration process that you spoke of – the one that will both shame and inspire any fledgling journalist of any merit – turns personal words into popular feeling, not only diminishes but dismisses the writer’s potential uniqueness, and essentially, mechanises to the point of profound numbness a great cultural pursuit.
    They transform thought into labour, and only an unwavering belief in your own ability, and a respect for the craft, can allow you to, at least temporarily in your mind, transcend their wretched ways.
    The reason it strikes such a chord is that this week I have been thinking that it is only like that because it is, and that all we need to do to change it is start. I am really determined to do things my way, and circumvent the depressing moments you have to reconcile with yourself to get by.
    So congratulations on a fantastic post, one you must already know, will have a great effect, Keep it up!

  • Mishun
    5 days, 15 hours ago

    Excellent piece and hugely enlightening.

    One has suspicions about these people but once in a while it’s nice to have them confirmed.

  • Blue Baby
    5 days, 6 hours ago

    When I was in my teens, I wanted to be a journalist. One week’s work experience at a reputable daily newspaper in my home town brought home to me that I’d never hack it (no pun intended) and that journalists/sub-editors will do almost anything to get a more sensational story/headline. Now in my 40’s, I’ve recently had reason to come into contact with the world of journalism again, and I uniformly treat all of them with caution, knowing anything I say is likely to be noted and twisted.

  • Lyndsay
    5 days, 4 hours ago

    Every newspaper and magazine has a house style – if you think it would be any different at another newspaper, you are wrong. The Mail’s an easy target because of its perceived agenda. If you want to make a point about shoddy editorial practice, The Guardian is among the worst. Your bias against the Mail damages the credibility of a piece like this. And for the record – stories aren’t made up at the Mail – that is a lazy accusation usually made by people who rarely read a newspaper at all and know nothing about the industry.

  • Donna
    5 days, 4 hours ago

    I totally agree with you on how we stitch ourselves up.
    As a journalist who now stays at home with 2 kids, and blogs to boost her chances of freelance work, I was contacted by the DM about a particularly emotional post I’d written on a family member.
    This person wouldn’t know one end of a computer from another – so she’d never read my blog.
    The DM wanted me to go on the record, and ask my relative to give ‘her side of the story’.
    Could just imagine the DM spin, twisting our relationship between its pages.
    After declining, I had several sleepless nights, worrying they’d track this person down and confront her with my blog post, forcing her into an interview.
    Thankfully, I don’t think I’m important enough to merit such extra legwork – but the DM journalist asked me to get back to her if I ever had anything else of interest.
    It’s tempting – for the money. But I know anything I do will be twisted and rewritten.

  • Jenny Simpson
    5 days, 3 hours ago

    This is truly excellent and eye-opening, as a tentative freelance writer, I want to thank you for the warning about how they deal with writers.

    It’s not just writers, but the subjects of their stories they screw over, twisting confessional accounts so that they are unrecognisable.

  • Philippa Davies
    5 days, 3 hours ago

    This is brilliant!!! I’ve always been aware of the Daily Mail’s insidious undermining of women, usually through its stream of ‘women’s’ features. These usually carry the underlying message that any female who does, or aspires to do, anything other than be a traditional, non-working wife and mother is bound to end up weird, heartbroken, alcholic, divorced, etc. Anna’s article is an excellent description of how a writer’s honest personal account is deliberately distorted in order to fit the Mail’s laughably outdated values and those of its readers. Here’s to you Anna.

  • Becky Sheaves
    4 days, 18 hours ago

    Dear Anna,
    Superb piece, reminded me why I am SO happy not to be working there any more…sounds like it has got even more Daily Maul than ever…
    As I remember it, no one could wear dark clothes as it looks inky and bad on the page, asa newsprint is such poor quality paper. But yes, no women in trousers either in the paper or in the DM office. As staffers, if we wanted to get a story in the paper we’d have to assure the commissioning editors that our interviewee was “very Daily Mail” ie middle-ish class, size 14 or less and photogenic…
    Bits of it were fun and some of the pals I made under the Femail cosh were and still are very dear to me, but oh God, this really reminds me how grim it can be. I read the DM the other day for the first time in years and was staggered by how hateful and negative it is…
    When you are in the office in Kensington with everyone else egging you on and being paid a stonking salary, it is easy to forget how unfair and unrealistic the DM world view can be. I really liked your honesty and I’m sure most of the DM commissioning eds won’t hold this piece against you, I bet they feel the same, I know I did…!
    Best of luck with everything, talent will out anyway, you really didn’t need this kind of hassle and crap. I hope you got a kill fee though…tip for anyone else thinking of writing for the DM, get the kill fee arranged in writing beforehand, as a good half of all commissioned pieces never see the light of day (true also of staff writers as well as freelances).

  • anonymous
    4 days, 3 hours ago

    I commissioned real life features for magazines and totally recognise this – writing the block caps, changing genuine quotes from the interviewee to trite magazine-speak. Even if I tried to stay true to the actual story told to me, it would get re-angled higher up the editorial chain. And case studies always had to be photogenic – even if they were a rape victim (who always had to be pictured because no one in the world can empathise with an anonymous rape victim it seems?!). Gah, glad to be shot of it all.

  • Magda Knight
    4 days, 2 hours ago

    Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. It’s terrifying to stick your neck out and I hope that all manner of good things come your way because of this. Thanks to you for writing it and Collective Review for publishing it.

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About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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3 Responses to Writing for The Daily Mail

  1. google.cn says:

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  2. Francis says:

    I never read the Daily Mail. When I lived in the UK any Daily Mail that I found was used to help clean oil off when I was fixing my Transalp bike….

  3. natashaloder says:

    Well done you for exposing how the Daily Mail works to exercise social control over women. The only way of punishing the Mail is for women to abandon it, let it fester on its own in its misogyny. Most of the readers for the Daily Mail are women. And journalists need to shun their money. Well done for sticking to your ground.

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